Hearing Health Blog

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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a scenario that happens more frequently than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider the parents who consistently put the needs of their children ahead of their own, making sure their kids obtain proactive and reactive care when needed, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. You can say the same for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who are afraid of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with sudden and complete hearing loss in one or both ears?

There’s a good chance your hearing will never come back if you just try to put it off. Hearing specialists caution that sudden, temporary hearing loss might advance 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.

Many people would be surprised to know how often sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to go up if you were to include them. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden hearing loss every year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually take place over a few hours or days so the term is a bit of a misconception.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Because the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what causes most cases. The sad fact is that only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Out of those cases 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 possibility of getting back at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

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

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for people who were not able 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 discovered that an injection of steroids into the eardrum was just as reliable as oral steroids, even side-stepping the drawbacks of oral alternatives by enabling the medication to flow directly into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that might diagnose the inherent issue causing your sudden loss of hearing can be set up by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is essential. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even a test of your balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Given the lack of concrete information about the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research goes deeper into what could be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new advancement of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have proven that even though they may not have all the answers regarding sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is improved by getting early treatment. Schedule an appointment with a hearing expert if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.

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