We typically think of hearing loss as something that develops slowly. This can make the symptoms difficult to detect. (After all, you’re simply turning up the volume on your TV now and then, it’s nothing to worry about, right?) In some cases that’s true but often, it isn’t. In some situations, hearing loss can occur abruptly without any early symptoms.
It can be very alarming when the state of your health suddenly changes. For instance, if your hair falls out a little bit at a time, it’s not a big deal, you’re just balding! But you would likely want to make an appointment with your doctor if you woke up one morning and all your hair had fallen out.
When you suddenly develop hearing loss, it’s the same thing. When this takes place, acting fast is key.
Sudden hearing loss – what is it?
Sudden hearing loss (sometimes called sudden deafness or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or simply SSHL for short) is not usually as common as the longer-term kind of hearing loss most individuals encounter. But sudden hearing loss isn’t exactly rare, either. About 1 in 5000 individuals a year are afflicted by SSHL.
The symptoms of sudden hearing loss commonly include the following:
- A loud “popping” noise sometimes occurs right before sudden hearing loss. But this isn’t always the case. It’s possible to experience SSHL without hearing this pop.
- As the name implies, sudden deafness usually happens rapidly. This usually means that sudden hearing loss occurs over a matter of hours or days. In most circumstances, the person will wake up and their hearing will suddenly be impaired. Or, maybe they’re not able to hear what the other person is saying on the other end of a phone call suddenly.
- Sudden hearing loss will impact only one ear in 9 of 10 cases. But it is possible for both ears to be impacted by SSHL.
- It might seem like your ear is plugged up. Or there might be a ringing or buzzing in some cases.
- 30dB or more of hearing loss. The outside world sounds 30dB quieter than when you had healthy hearing. You’ll certainly notice the difference, but you will need our assistance to measure it.
If you experience SSHL, you might be wondering: is sudden deafness permanent? Well, around half of everybody who experiences SSHL will get better within two weeks. But rapid treatment is a significant key to success. So you will need to come see us for treatment right away. You should make an appointment within 72 hours of the onset of your symptoms.
The best thing you can do, in most cases, is to treat SSHL as a medical emergency. The longer you delay treatment, the greater your risk of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible.
What’s the cause of sudden hearing loss?
Here are some of the biggest causes of sudden hearing loss:
- Autoimmune disease: In some cases, your immune system begins to believe that your inner ear is a threat. Sudden hearing loss can definitely be brought on by this autoimmune disease.
- Recurring exposure to loud noise, such as music: Hearing will decline gradually due to repeated exposure to loud sound for most people. But for some, that decline in hearing may happen suddenly.
- A reaction to drugs: This might include common medicines like aspirin. This list can also include some antibiotics, including streptomycin and gentamicin, and other common medications including cisplatin and quinine.
- Reaction to pain medication: Excessive use of opioid-related drugs and pain medication can raise your risk of experiencing sudden hearing loss.
- Genetic predisposition: In some situations, an increased risk of sudden deafness can be passed down from parents to children.
- Head trauma: A traumatic brain injury can be disruptive to the communication between your brain and your ears.
- Problems with your blood flow: Things like obstructed cochlear arteries and high platelet counts are included in this category.
- Illnesses: Diseases such as mumps, measles, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis have all been known to trigger SSHL, for very different reasons. This is a great reason to get immunized against diseases for which there is a vaccine.
The majority of the time, we will be better able to help you develop an effective treatment if we can determine what type of sudden hearing loss you’re dealing with. But this isn’t always the case. Knowing the precise cause isn’t always essential for effective treatment because lots of forms of SSHL have similar treatment strategies.
What should you do if you experience sudden loss of hearing?
So what action should you take if you wake up one day and find that your hearing is gone? There are a couple of things that you should do as soon as possible. First and foremost, you should not just wait for it to clear on its own. That isn’t going to work very well. Instead, you should find treatment within 72 hours. Getting in touch with us for immediate treatment is the best plan. We’ll be able to help you figure out what went wrong and help you find the best course of treatment.
We will most likely conduct an audiogram in our office to determine your degree of hearing loss (this is the examination where we make you wear headphones and raise your hand when you hear a beep, it’s entirely non-invasive). We can make certain you don’t have a blockage or a conductive issue.
The first course of treatment will usually include steroids. For some people, these steroids may be injected directly into the ear. In other circumstances, oral medication might be enough. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be successfully treated with steroids. For SSHL caused by an autoimmune disease, you might need to take medication that suppresses your immune response.
If you or somebody you know has suddenly lost the ability to hear, call us right away for an evaluation..