Hearing Health Blog

Image of someone going to ER to treat sudden hearing loss.

In today’s society, putting off health care is a scenario that happens more often than we’d like to acknowledge.

Think of the parents who regularly put the needs of their children in front of their own, making certain their sons and daughters receive proactive and reactive care when needed, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. How about professionals who won’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are those who are scared of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you required more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one day and had total hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing experts caution that abrupt, temporary hearing loss might progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, specifically if the damage is at the nerve level.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the people who experience sudden hearing loss–the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than is commonly recognized. Actually, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans might experience sudden loss of hearing each year.

The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misnomer in this instance as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can occur over a few hours or up to three days.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Due to the fact that the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad reality is that only around 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be determined. Of those that hearing professionals can pinpoint, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

Your best chance of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

In situations when the cause is unknown and in many other cases, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has evolved. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for people who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects linked to the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD found that an injection of steroids through the eardrum was just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the downsides of oral alternatives by enabling the medication to go straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

Another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is so important is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the root issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even a test of your balance.

We Could be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Researchers continue to work on the problem but honestly, there’s a lack of concrete facts about the cause of sudden loss of hearing. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new advancement of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have shown that even though they might not have all the answers concerning sudden hearing loss, your chances of restoring your hearing is improved by seeking early treatment. If you have hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should contact a hearing expert immediately.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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