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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a situation that occurs more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Think about people who disregard their own health care so they can get protection for their children. How about professionals who won’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are people who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what action would you take if you required 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 unexpected and complete loss of hearing in one if not both ears?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will never return if you just attempt to put it off. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.

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 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 find out how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. In fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD warns that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could develop sudden loss of hearing every year.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are usually not able to determine the cause because it comes on over hours or even days. The sad truth is that determining a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Out of those cases that hearing experts can determine, 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.

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

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

The recommended method of treatment has changed since researchers have conducted more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum was as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to flow right into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral alternatives. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

Another reason why getting prompt medical attention is so crucial is that your doctor might order a panel of tests that could diagnose the fundamental problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another threatening condition. These tests can even determine whether you can keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging techniques.

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

Given the lack of solid 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 shown that even though they may not have all the answers concerning 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 have hearing loss of any type.

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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