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

Hearing loss has a reputation for developing gradually. This can make the symptoms difficult to detect. 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 quite alarming when the condition of your health suddenly changes. For example, if your hair falls out a little bit at a time, it’s no big deal, you’re just balding! But if all of your hair fell out in a single day, you would likely feel compelled to schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can (and rightfully so).

When you suddenly develop hearing loss, it’s the same thing. There are some very good reasons why acting quickly is a good plan!

Sudden hearing loss – what is it?

Long-term hearing loss is more common than sudden hearing loss or SSHL for short. But it’s not really uncommon for people to experience sudden hearing loss. Approximately 1 in 5000 people a year are afflicted by SSHL.

The symptoms of sudden hearing loss normally include the following:

  • In 9 out of 10 cases, sudden hearing loss affects only one ear. But it is possible for both ears to be impacted by SSHL.
  • The loss of 30dB or greater in terms of your hearing. That is, the environment sounds 30dB quieter from whatever your previous baseline had been. You’ll definitely notice the difference, but you will need our assistance to measure it.
  • As the name suggests, sudden deafness typically happens quickly. This typically means that sudden hearing loss occurs over a matter of hours or days. As a matter of fact, most people wake up in the morning wondering what’s wrong with their ears! Or, perhaps they’re unable to hear the other person talking on the other end of a phone call all of a sudden.
  • A loud “popping” noise sometimes happens just before sudden hearing loss. But that only occurs sometimes. SSHL isn’t always coupled with this popping sound.
  • Some individuals might also have a feeling of fullness in the ear. Or there might be a ringing or buzzing in some instances.

If you experience SSHL, you might be wondering: is sudden deafness permanent? Well, approximately half of everyone who experiences SSHL will get better within a couple of weeks. However, it’s significant to note that one key to success is prompt treatment. This means you will want to undergo treatment as rapidly as you can. You should make an appointment within 72 hours of the onset of your symptoms.

In most situations, it’s a good strategy to treat sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency. The longer you wait, the greater your chance of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible.

So… what triggers sudden hearing loss?

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

  • Genetic predisposition: In some cases, an elevated risk of sudden hearing loss can be passed along from parents to children.
  • Head trauma: The communication between your ears and your brain can be disrupted by a traumatic brain injury.
  • Reaction to pain medication: Your risk of developing sudden hearing loss is raised by overuse of opioids.
  • Ongoing exposure to loud noise, such as music: Hearing will decline gradually due to ongoing exposure to loud sound for most people. But there might be some circumstances where that hearing loss will happen suddenly.
  • Autoimmune disease: Your immune system can, in some cases, start to view your inner ear as a threat. Sudden hearing loss can absolutely be caused by this autoimmune disease.
  • A reaction to drugs: Common medications such as aspirin are included in this list. This list can also include certain antibiotics, like streptomycin and gentamicin, and other prevalent medicines including cisplatin and quinine.
  • Illnesses: Diseases like mumps, measles, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis have all been known to cause SSHL, for significantly different reasons. This is a great reason to get immunized against diseases that have a vaccine.
  • Problems with your blood flow: This may include anything from a high platelet count to a blockage of the cochlear artery.

The majority of the time, we will be better capable of helping you develop an effective treatment if we can determine what type of sudden hearing loss you have. But this isn’t always the situation. Many kinds of SSHL are addressed similarly, so determining the accurate cause is not always necessary for effective treatment.

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

So what should you do if you wake up one day and find that you can’t hear anything? There are a couple of things that you need to do immediately. First of all, you shouldn’t just wait for it to clear on its own. That isn’t going to work very well. You should wait no longer than 72 hours to find treatment. Getting in touch with us for immediate treatment is the smartest plan. We’ll be in the best position to help you determine what’s wrong and how to address it.

We will probably conduct an audiogram in our office to identify your degree of hearing loss (this is the examination where we have you wear headphones and raise your hand when you hear beeping, it’s completely non-invasive). We will also make sure you don’t have any obstructions or a possible conductive cause for your hearing loss.

The first round of treatment will usually include steroids. For some people, these steroids might be injected directly into the ear. In other situations, oral medication may be enough. Steroids have been known to be quite effective in treating SSHL with a wide variety of root causes (or with no confirmed root cause). You may need to use a medication to reduce your immune response if your SSHL is caused by an autoimmune disease.

If you or someone you know has suddenly lost the ability to hear, call us right away for an evaluation..

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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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