By: Dr. Todd Decker, AuD Professional Hearing Services
Sudden hearing loss is an occurrence we see quite often within our practice. We often receive a phone call from an individual stating “when I woke up this morning, I could only hear from one ear”. They may state “I cannot hear the telephone in my ear anymore” or “I heard a loud “POP” and now it feels full”. We often take our hearing for granted but when it leaves suddenly, it is missed.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) can occur in 1 out of 5,000 adults every year. The ages most affected are those in their 40s-60s. It can occur equally in both men and women and most of the cases of SSNHL affect only ONE ear. Some people have other symptoms accompanying their SSNHL like ringing in the same ear or dizziness.
The cause of the sudden loss of hearing is often unknown but can be attributed to bacterial infection, viral infection, inner ear disorders (i.e., Meniere’s disease) and brain tumors. Some medications, if taken in high doses, can attribute to SSNHL as can blood flow issues.
The main point of this article today is that SSNHL is considered a medical emergency and should not be taken lightly. Though sudden hearing loss can spontaneously resolve itself in 45-65% of individuals, seeking medical intervention should be a priority. There is a window of opportunity for treatment between 10-14 days, otherwise the hearing loss may become permanent. However, even with timely treatment your hearing may not regain fully.
If you or family member experience sudden hearing loss, contact your physician immediately. A hearing test is often needed before and after treatment to verify the success of the treatment. An Ear, Nose and Throat Physician is often seen for the treatment process and follow-up. They will look at the results of the hearing test and ask follow-up questions to decide what method of treatment would be best. An imaging test called a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may be completed in order to look at the structures of the inner ear and to look for possible causes of the sudden hearing loss. Common methods of treatment include steroid injections through the eardrum and oral steroids.
Your hearing is important so please see a physician should a sudden hearing loss happen.
Information for this article was obtained from Kuhn, M., Heman-Ackah, S. E., Shaikh, J. A., & Roehm, P. C. (2011). Sudden sensorineural hearing loss: a review of diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Trends in amplification, 15(3), 91–105. https://doi.org/10.1177/1084713811408349