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Puretone Hearing Aid Center - Longview, TX and Shreveport, LA

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

In today’s society, putting off health care is a scenario that takes place more frequently than we’d like to acknowledge.

Think of the parents who regularly put the needs of their children ahead of their own, ensuring their kids receive proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what would you do if you required more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one morning with sudden and total loss of hearing in one or both ears?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will not ever return if you simply attempt to wait it out. Hearing specialists caution that abrupt, 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 people 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 taken into consideration, that number would be significantly higher. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden loss of hearing 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 several hours or up to three days.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Because the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad truth is that determining a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Out of those cases that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

Your best possibility of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In the majority of cases, especially those where the cause is unknown, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for individuals who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to use oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids into the eardrum was just as reliable as oral steroids, even getting around the downsides to oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to flow straight into the ear. These injections have now become a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting prompt medical care is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the root problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another threatening condition. These tests can even examine 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 solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research goes deeper into what could be the culprit. New advancements with infusing drugs into small microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

Researchers have proven that even though they may not have all the answers concerning sudden loss of hearing, your chances of getting your hearing back is improved by seeking early treatment. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should get in touch with a hearing professional right away.