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

More frequently than we would like to admit, in today’s society, we neglect health care.

Think about people who neglect their own health care so they can get 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 afraid of what they could hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what action would you take if you required more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and complete loss of hearing in one or both ears?

There’s a good chance your hearing will never return if you just attempt to wait it out. Hearing experts warn that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it could 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.

Many people would be surprised to know how frequently sudden hearing loss happens. Actually, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would go up significantly. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden loss of hearing each year.

The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misconception in this case as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can take place over several hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are usually unable to figure out the cause as it occurs over hours or even days. The sad truth is that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be identified. Of those that hearing specialists can determine, 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 mentioned, 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.

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In many cases, specifically those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the purpose is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

The recommended method of treatment has changed since researchers have done more studies on sudden hearing loss and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for individuals who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects connected with the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even side-stepping the downsides to oral alternatives by enabling the medication to go straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

Another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the root issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests can even examine your ability to keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging techniques.

We May be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, continuing research goes deeper into what may be the culprit. New advancements with infusing drugs into small microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

While many factors of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical specialists have proven repeatedly that early treatment improves your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. If you have hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should contact a hearing professional immediately.

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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