Hearing Health Blog

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

In our modern society, neglecting health care is a situation that happens more often than we’d like to admit.

Think about people who neglect their own health care so they can get protection for their children. The same goes for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who are afraid of what they could hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what action would you take if you required more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one morning with sudden and total loss of hearing in one or both ears?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever return if you simply try to wait it out. Hearing specialists caution that abrupt, temporary hearing loss could 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 individuals who experience sudden hearing loss–the sudden loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Many people would be shocked to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden loss of hearing.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are often unable to figure out the cause as it happens over hours or even days. The unfortunate reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. exposure to certain drugs, blood pressure problems, neurological disorders, infections, disorders of the inner ear and head trauma are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

As mentioned, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best possibility of recovering at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is unknown, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has become more modern and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but this presented a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects associated with the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD found that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the drawbacks to oral alternatives by allowing the medication to flow directly into the ear. These injections have now become a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

A group of tests that may diagnose the root problem causing your sudden loss of hearing can be arranged by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is important. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

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

While many factors of sudden loss of hearing remain a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. If you have hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should contact a hearing professional immediately.

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