How Should You Handle a Sudden Hearing Loss?


Sudden deafness or Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss or SSHL is unexplained rapid loss of hearing usually in one ear (but both the ears may be affected) over a period of few days. A patient suffering from SSHL should consult an ENT specialist as quickly as possible to diagnose and start the treatment.

Research studies estimate that approximately 5,000 people are affected by sudden hearing loss every year. SSHL affects people between 30 and 60 years of age and a patient mostly notice the problem soon after waking up in the morning. Some others may notice the hearing problem when they try to use the affected ear for some purpose, for example, while talking on the phone. People suffering SSHL may also get dizzy, hear ringing sound inside their ears (tinnitus), or hear a loud pop!

50% of affected patients may automatically recover from SSHL after a couple of weeks. Many cases go unreported because people recover automatically without any medical intervention.

Apprx 85-90% of those who visit an ENT Specialist may recover hearing capacity completely or partially. If you suddenly notice partial or full deafness in one of your ears, immediately visit an ENT doctor.

Major causes of sudden hearing loss

Sudden deafness mostly happens because of unknown reasons. The sudden hearing loss develops when the cochlea in the inner ear, or the nerves connecting the ear and the brain get damaged.

Few probable causes of SSHL (10-15% only) include blood circulation problems, tumor on the nerve pathway connecting the ear with the brain, infectious diseases, a traumatic injury, autoimmune diseases, specific drugs that are harmful for the inner ear, neurologic disorders like multiple sclerosis, and Ménière’s disease. Read about SSHL on this Neoalta page.

Probable symptoms of sudden hearing loss

Too often, patients detect sudden hearing loss in one ear right after waking up in the morning. Moreover, patients can also notice the problem while using the affected ear for headphones or phone calls. The common symptoms of SSHL may be one or more of the following:

  • Conversation sounding like whispers
  • Muffled sounds
  • Severe hearing difficulty with the presence of background noise
  • Problems hearing high-pitched sound
  • Dizziness and body balance problems
  • Tinnitus, which is associated with ringing sounds in the ear

What should you do when you suffer these symptoms?

Sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency. Patient should visit an ENT Specialist immediately. Many times, people suffering from the above symptoms delay visiting a doctor assuming they have allergies, sinus infection, or ear wax.

SSHL is diagnosed through a hearing test (Audiometry). If the test results demonstrate a loss of at least 30 decibels in three different frequencies, then this condition is diagnosed as SSHL. The doctor combines the patient’s medical history with the physical exam to detect SSHL.

The common treatment methods for SSHL include steroids.

Steroids can be given in tablet form, by intravenous injection or direct injection in to ear drum (intratympanic corticosteroid therapy) In other cases, a cochlear implant may be used to improve hearing in the affected ear. Read how Neoalta treats adult SSHL patients.

If a otolaryngologist finds a cause for sudden deafness it is treated accordingly. Such as infection is treated by giving antibiotics and ototxic drugs are stopped.

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