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

In our modern society, delaying health care is a situation that occurs more frequently than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider people who disregard their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. How about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are individuals who are frightened of what they could hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

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

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing comes back, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of immediately, peculiarly 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 rapid 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 occur 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. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could experience sudden hearing loss each year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually take place over several hours or days so the term is a bit of a misnomer.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Because the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to discover what causes most cases. The unfortunate fact is that only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Of those that hearing professionals can pinpoint, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

As stated, getting treatment as soon as possible after the start 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 cases when the cause is not known and in most other cases, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid use, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has become more modern and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects linked to the medication.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even making it possible for the medication to go straight into the inner ear, without the drawback of the oral alternatives. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that might diagnose the inherent issue causing your sudden loss of hearing can be ordered by your doctor and that’s another reason why getting immediate medical attention is important. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the problem but truthfully, there is a lack of concrete facts around the cause of sudden loss of hearing. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.

While many factors of sudden hearing loss are still a mystery, researchers and medical specialists have shown repeatedly that early treatment increases your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. Make an appointment with a hearing expert if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.

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.