For People With Sudden Hearing Loss Early Treatment Offers Hope

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

In today’s society, neglecting health care is a scenario that happens more often than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider the parents who regularly put the needs of their children in front of their own, making sure their children obtain proactive and reactive care when required, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. What about professionals who won’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are people who are scared 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 needed more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? If you woke up one day and had total loss of hearing in one if not both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is to just ignore it until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss treated immediately, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it might 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 happen than is commonly recognized. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. That said, the NIDCD warns that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to go up if you were to include them. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden hearing loss each year.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are usually not able to figure out the cause as it happens over hours or even days. The unfortunate fact is that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Out of those cases that hearing specialists can determine, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

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

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 for people who were leery of the side effects of medication or were unable to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the drawbacks of oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to go directly into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

Another reason why getting immediate medical attention is so important is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem 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 methods.

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

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

While some aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical experts have proven over and over that early treatment improves your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing professional if you are experiencing 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.