Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a scenario that occurs more often than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider people who disregard their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. You can say the same for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than just your annual preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had total loss of hearing in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to wait it out until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing experts warn that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of immediately, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it may become permanent.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the people who experience sudden hearing loss–the sudden loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than is commonly recognized. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD warns that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to go up if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden loss of hearing.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are usually unable to figure out the cause as it occurs over hours or even days. The unfortunate truth is that only around 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be identified. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

As stated, getting treatment as soon as possible after the onset of sudden hearing loss gives you the best possibility of recovering at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is unknown and in many other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

The recommended method of treatment has changed since researchers have done more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Pill form is how these steroids were historically prescribed, but this presented a challenge for people who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects associated with the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD found that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even allowing the medication to go straight into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral alternatives. These injections have now become a common method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting prompt medical care is so important is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden loss of hearing 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.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

Given the lack of solid information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, ongoing research digs deeper into what may be the cause. New advancements with infusing drugs into tiny microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

While many aspects of sudden loss of hearing are still a mystery, researchers and medical experts have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing professional if you have hearing loss of any kind.

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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