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

In today’s society, putting off health care is a situation that occurs more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Think of the parents who regularly put the needs of their children before of their own, making certain their children obtain proactive and reactive care when required, but failing to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who live by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply your annual preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one morning with sudden and complete hearing loss in one or both ears?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing experts warn that sudden, temporary hearing loss could progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, particularly if the damage is at the nerve level.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

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.

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. 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 could experience sudden hearing loss each year.

The term “sudden” is a bit of a misnomer in this situation as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can happen over a few hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are frequently not able to determine the cause because it happens over hours or even days. The sad truth is that determining a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes include infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

Your best chance of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is not known and in many other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

The preferred method of treatment has changed since researchers have carried out more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Pill form is how these steroids were historically prescribed, but for individuals who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the downsides of oral alternatives by permitting the medicine to go right into the ear. These injections are now a normal approach to treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

A panel of tests that could diagnose the root issue causing your sudden loss of hearing can be set up by your doctor and that’s another reason why getting immediate medical attention is crucial. These tests can even examine your ability to keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging techniques.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

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

While many aspects of sudden hearing loss are still a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing specialist 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.
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