McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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

More frequently than we would like to admit, in our modern day society, we neglect health care.

Think of the parents who consistently put the needs of their children in front of their own, making certain their kids receive proactive and reactive care when needed, but failing to do the same for themselves. What about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are people who are afraid of what they could hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply your annual preventive flu vaccine or something to deal with a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and total hearing loss in one if not both ears?

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing specialists warn that sudden, temporary loss of hearing might progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, particularly if the damage is at the nerve level.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals 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 shocked to know how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. 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 about 400,000 (or more) Americans may experience sudden loss of hearing each year.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Due to the fact that the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what causes most cases. The sad reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Of those that hearing experts can pinpoint, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As mentioned, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance of recovering at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In most cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

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

An injection of steroids into the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to flow directly into the inner ear, without the drawback of the oral options. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A group of tests that might diagnose the root issue causing your sudden loss of hearing can be set up by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. These tests can even check your ability to keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.

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

Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, ongoing research digs deeper into what may be the culprit. New developments with infusing drugs into little 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 shown over and over that early treatment improves your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. If you have hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should contact a hearing expert right away.