Hearing loss has a track record for showing itself gradually. It can be difficult to detect the symptoms because of this. It’s nothing to concern yourself with, you just need the volume on the TV a little louder, no big deal, right? That’s usually the situation, yes, but not always. Sometimes, hearing loss can occur suddenly without any early symptoms.
It can be quite alarming when the state of your health abruptly 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 if all of your hair fell out overnight, you would likely feel obliged to schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can (and rightfully so).
When you suddenly develop hearing loss, it’s the same thing. When this takes place, acting fast is important.
Sudden hearing loss – what is it?
Long-term hearing loss is more common than sudden hearing loss or SSHL for short. But sudden hearing loss isn’t really rare, either. Each year, 1 in 5000 people experience SSHL.
The symptoms of sudden hearing loss normally include the following:
- Some individuals might also experience a feeling of fullness in the ear. Or there may be a ringing or buzzing in some instances.
- A loud “popping” noise sometimes occurs right before sudden hearing loss. But this is not always the situation. SSHL isn’t always accompanied by this popping noise.
- 30dB or greater 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 help to measure it.
- Sudden hearing loss will impact only one ear in 9 of 10 cases. Having said that, it is possible for SSHL to impact both ears.
- Sudden hearing loss occurs very quickly as the name implies. Sudden hearing loss happens within a few days or even within a few hours. In fact, most people wake up in the morning wondering what’s wrong with their hearing! Or, maybe they’re unable to hear what the other person is saying on the other end of a phone call all of a sudden.
So, is sudden hearing loss permanent? Well, approximately 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 as soon as possible. After you first detect the symptoms, you should wait no longer than 72 hours.
The best thing you can do, in most situations, is to treat SSHL as a medical emergency. Your chances of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible increases the longer you wait.
What’s the cause of sudden hearing loss?
Here are some of the leading causes of sudden hearing loss:
- Illnesses: There are a number of health conditions that, for significantly different reasons, can cause SSHL, including multiple sclerosis, meningitis, measles, and mumps. This is a good reason to get immunized against diseases for which there is a vaccine.
- Problems with your blood flow: Things like obstructed cochlear arteries and high platelet counts are included in this category.
- Reaction to pain medication: Your risk of experiencing sudden hearing loss is elevated by excessive use of opioids.
- A reaction to drugs: This might include common medications like aspirin. This list can also include certain antibiotics, like streptomycin and gentamicin, and other prevalent medications including cisplatin and quinine.
- Genetic predisposition: In some instances, a greater risk of sudden deafness can be passed along from parents to children.
- Autoimmune disease: Your immune system can, in some cases, start to view your inner ear as a threat. This kind of autoimmune disease can definitely result in SSHL.
- Head trauma: The communication between your brain and ears can be interrupted by a traumatic brain injury.
- Recurring exposure to loud sound, such as music: For most individuals, loud noise will cause a gradual decline in hearing. But there might be some situations where that hearing loss will happen suddenly.
The majority of the time, we will be better able to help you develop an effective treatment if we can figure out what type of sudden hearing loss you have. But at times it doesn’t work that way. Many kinds of SSHL are treated similarly, so determining the accurate cause is not always required for effective treatment.
If you experience sudden hearing loss – what should you do?
So, if you wake up one morning and suddenly discover you’re unable to hear anything, what should you do? Well, there are a couple of important steps you should take immediately. Never just attempt to wait it out. That’s a bad plan! Alternatively, you should find treatment within 72 hours. It’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible. We’ll be able to help you identify what happened and help you find the most effective course of treatment.
We will probably undertake an audiogram in our office to find out your degree of hearing loss (this is a completely non-invasive test where you put on some headphones and raise your hand when you hear a tone). We will also rule out any blockages or a possible conductive cause for your hearing loss.
For most patients, the first round of treatment will most likely include steroids. An injection of these steroids directly into the ear is in some cases necessary. In other circumstances, oral medication may be enough. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be successfully treated with steroids. You might need to use a medication to suppress your immune response if your SSHL is due to an autoimmune disease.
Have you or someone you know suddenly lost hearing? Contact us today to schedule a hearing evaluation.