Sudden Hearing Loss
Warning: If you experience sudden hearing loss, you should seek medical attention immediately!
Sudden hearing loss happens more often than you think. According to the National Library of Medicine, sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) affects between 5 to 27 Americans per 100,000 people, which results in 60,000 new cases every year.
While this may not happen to you, it’s important to understand that sudden SNHL is considered an otolaryngologic emergency and is treatable if addressed as such. In fact, studies show that if we treat sudden hearing loss in the first 72 hours of onset, patients are more likely to regain at least some – if not all – of the hearing back. Unfortunately, most people wait too long, thinking it will go away on its own. Immediate action is the key to recovery from sudden sensorineural hearing loss!
What is sudden hearing loss?
People often report the following sudden hearing loss symptoms: dizziness, tinnitus, and a popping sound right before the onset of the hearing loss. In some cases, the person will immediately notice that they cannot hear from one ear. In other cases, until they have a hearing test by an audiologist, they might not fully understand the extent of the damage.
Either way, as soon as you recognize rapid onset hearing loss, treat it as an emergency and seek medical attention with emergency hearing loss treatment. Delaying your diagnosis could decrease the effectiveness of treatment and lead to permanent hearing loss.
What causes a sudden loss of hearing?
- Ménière’s disease
- Neoplastic issues
- Head trauma
- Metabolic issues
- Neurological issues, such as multiple sclerosis
- Immunologic issues
- Side effects of certain ototoxic medications, including those that treat cancer
- Blood circulation issues
- Cochlear/inner ear changes
- Autoimmune disease
- Bacterial and viral infections
What is the treatment for sudden hearing loss?
The most common treatment, especially when the cause is unknown, is corticosteroids. Steroids reduce inflammation, decrease swelling, and help the body fight illness. Corticosteroids can be administered by pill as oral steroids or through the ear, though a clinical trial supported by the NIDCD showed that both methods were equally as effective.
Aside from steroids, if you know the cause of your sudden hearing loss, then more options are available. For example, if your hearing loss is due to a bacterial infection, then you may be prescribed antibiotics. If your hearing loss is severe, hearing aids may be an option to restore some of your hearing.
How can an Audiologist help?
Understanding what to do with hearing loss is what we do best. If you’ve been told by medical professionals that there is nothing you can do about your sudden hearing loss, you need to see us for a second opinion and get audiologist services for sudden hearing loss. We help patients with sudden hearing loss regain their ability to hear background noise, localize where sounds are coming from, and reduce their tinnitus. Call us today to schedule a consultation.
What virus causes sudden hearing loss?
Many viruses cause sudden hearing loss. Rubella, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Measles, Chicken Pox and Shingles (Varicella Zoster Virus), and the Mumps virus can all cause sudden hearing loss. Viruses cause sudden deafness by damaging the inner ear, either directly or through inflammation.
Can covid cause sudden hearing loss?
Reports are limited, and it is too early to say for sure. However, Covid can infect the ear and cause inflammation, which may damage the inner ear enough to cause sudden deafness. This is similar to how other viruses can cause sudden loss of hearing.
Is sudden hearing loss an emergency?
Yes! You should seek immediate medical treatment if you think you are experiencing sudden hearing loss. Partial or full recovery of hearing becomes much easier with prompt treatment. The sooner we can help, the better the outcome.