Unilateral Tinnitus – Causes and General Information

Reasons For Unilateral Tinnitus

Tinnitus refers to perceived sounds, which a patient perceives as ringing, hissing, buzzing or pulsating inside the head or ear(s), in the absence of external stimuli. Unilateral tinnitus refers to loss of hearing on only one ear. Commonly referred to as single-sided deafness (SSD), this unilateral hearing loss can be mild or profound, temporary or permanent. It affects 20-30 percent of the population of all ages and can be classified as objective or subjective. Objective SSD means that everyone else in the patient’s environment can perceive sounds the patient perceives, while subjective SSD refers to sound that only the patient perceives.

unhappy female with negative expression on her faceCauses

Unilateral tinnitus may be caused by physical, physiological and or mental factors. Injuries to the head, nose, ear and neck can damage the ear and or ear-related network, which may cause gradual/ instant hearing loss. ENT (ear, nose and mouth) illnesses may cause ear infection and result in hearing loss. Jaw and teeth illnesses (mandibular bone) may infect the bone on which the ear is attached, and this might cause ringing or vibrating sounds in one ear/ side of the head. Stress and depression may also contribute to the hearing loss of one ear, as can some drugs.

Effects/ impacts of tinnitus on the patient

The reduced ability of one ear to perceive sound may cause the patient to miss most of the conversation he/ she engages as the brain concentrates on picking the sound. Unilateral tinnitus may also induce awkward social behavior in a person as he/ she may always be overly anxious, too attentive, irritable and always trying to adjust his/ her position to maximize hearing with the functioning ear. A patient may also get into accidents, as he/she may not properly perceive the distance or direction of sound to stay clear of accident-causing factors. In students, whether young or old, single-sided deafness may cause low class performance and or longer learning periods.

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Since unilateral tinnitus is more of symptom of an underlying factor than of a disease, the first choice of treatment would be to address those underlying factors; once they are identified. For instance, common cold, toothache and or throat infection, which reduces one ear’s hearing ability, should be treated to eradicate the problem. SSD caused by abrupt, loud noises may go away on its own, but can also be treated through therapy; keeping the patient in a quiet/ noise-controlled room. Hearing aids comprise a last resort if everything else fails, but their hearing perception’ rectification may not be guaranteed.


Unilateral tinnitus may exhibit in the form of ringing, vibrating and or hissing among other sounds, in one ear. The perceived sounds may be objective (perceived by the patient and other people) or subjective (perceived by the patient only). The condition may result from drugs, head/ ear injuries, ENT illnesses and or mental disturbances. Possible treatment can be obtained by taking prescribed drugs, treating underlying factors, adopting hearing aids and through therapy. SSD reduces a person’s ability to perceive or process sound; resulting in adaptive behavior to overcome this disability.

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