Man suffering from sudden hearing loss sitting on the couch touching his ear.

We usually think of hearing loss as something that advances little by little. It can be easy to miss the symptoms due to this. It’s nothing to concern yourself with, you simply need the volume on the TV a bit louder, no big deal, right? That’s usually the situation, yes, but not always. It turns out hearing loss can also happen abruptly and without much warning.

It can be truly alarming when the condition of your health suddenly changes. When people’s hair falls out slowly over a really long period of time, for example, they would probably just blame it on aging and simply assume they’re balding. But if all of your hair fell out overnight, you would likely feel obliged to make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible (and rightfully so).

When you suddenly lose your ability to hear, it’s the same thing. When this takes place, acting fast is key.

Sudden hearing loss – what is it?

Long-term hearing loss is more prevalent than sudden hearing loss or SSHL for short. But it’s not really uncommon for individuals to experience sudden hearing loss. Each year, 1 in 5000 people experience SSHL.

Here are some symptoms of sudden hearing loss:

  • As the name implies, sudden deafness normally occurs quickly. Sudden hearing loss develops within a few days or even within a few hours. In fact, most individuals wake up in the morning wondering what’s wrong with their hearing! Or, maybe they’re not able to hear the other person talking on the other end of a phone call suddenly.
  • Some individuals hear a loud “pop” before their hearing begins to fail. But this isn’t always the case. It’s possible to experience SSHL without hearing this pop.
  • In 9 out of 10 instances, sudden hearing loss affects only one ear. But it is possible for both ears to be affected by SSHL.
  • It may seem like your ear is plugged up. Or there might be a ringing or buzzing in some instances.
  • The loss of 30dB or greater with regards to your hearing. The outside world sounds 30dB quieter than when you had healthy hearing. You’ll certainly notice the difference, but you will need our assistance to measure it.

If you experience SSHL, you may be wondering: is sudden deafness permanent? Actually, within a couple of weeks, hearing will return for about 50% of individuals who experience SSHL. However, it’s important to note that one key to success is rapid treatment. So you will need to come see us for treatment right away. When you first notice the symptoms, you should wait no longer than 72 hours.

In most circumstances, it’s a good strategy to treat sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency. The longer you wait, the higher your risk of sudden hearing loss becoming permanent.

So… what causes sudden hearing loss?

Some of the leading causes of sudden hearing loss include the following:

  • A reaction to drugs: This could include common medicines such as aspirin. Normally, this also includes cisplatin, quinine, or streptomycin and gentamicin (the last two of which are antibiotics.
  • Genetic predisposition: In some cases, an elevated risk of sudden deafness can be passed along from parents to children.
  • Reaction to pain medication: Your risk of experiencing sudden hearing loss is elevated by overuse of opioids.
  • Autoimmune disease: In some circumstances, your immune system begins to think that your inner ear is a threat. This kind of autoimmune disease can definitely lead to SSHL.
  • Head trauma: The communication between your ears and your brain can be disrupted by a traumatic brain injury.
  • Ongoing exposure to loud sound, such as music: For most individuals, loud sound will cause a gradual decline in hearing. But there may be some situations where that hearing loss will happen suddenly.
  • Problems with your blood flow: This may include anything from a high platelet count to an obstruction of the cochlear artery.
  • Illnesses: There are numerous health conditions that, for greatly different reasons, can cause SSHL, including multiple sclerosis, meningitis, measles, and mumps. This is a good reason to get immunized against diseases that have a vaccine.

The majority of the time, we will be better able to help you develop an effective treatment if we can ascertain what type of sudden hearing loss you’re dealing with. But at times it doesn’t work that way. Many types of SSHL are addressed similarly, so knowing the exact cause isn’t always required for successful treatment.

If you experience sudden hearing loss – what should you do?

So what should you do if you wake up one morning and discover that your hearing is gone? Well, there are some essential steps you should take immediately. First of all, you shouldn’t just wait for it to clear on its own. That won’t work very well. You should wait no longer than 72 hours to find treatment. Calling us for immediate treatment is the best plan. We’ll be able to help you figure out what went wrong and help you find the best course of treatment.

While you’re at our office, you may undergo an audiogram to determine the degree of hearing loss you’re dealing with (this is the examination where we make you put on headphones and raise your hand when you hear a beep, it’s completely non-invasive). We will also rule out any obstructions or a possible conductive cause for your hearing loss.

The first round of treatment will usually include steroids. For some patients, these steroids might be injected directly into the ear. For others, pills may be able to generate the desired results. SSHL of many root causes (or no known cause) can be successfully treated with steroids. You may need to take a medication to reduce your immune response if your SSHL is caused by an autoimmune disease.

Have you or someone you know suddenly lost hearing? Call us today to schedule a hearing assessment.

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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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