If You Have Sudden Hearing Loss, It’s Crucial to Act Fast

Man suffering from sudden hearing loss sitting on the couch touching his ear.

We typically think of hearing loss as something that advances gradually. It can be difficult to detect the symptoms because of this. (After all, you’re just turning up the volume on your television once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about, right?) Sometimes that’s true but in some cases, it isn’t. It turns out hearing loss can also occur abruptly and without much warning.

When our health abruptly changes, it tends to get our attention (one might even describe the emotion as “alarm”). For instance, if your hair falls out a little bit at a time, it’s no big deal, you’re just going bald! But you would probably want to schedule 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 crucial.

What is sudden hearing loss?

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.

Here are some symptoms of sudden hearing loss:

  • Some people notice a loud “pop” before their hearing starts to fail. But that only occurs sometimes. SSHL isn’t always coupled with this popping noise.
  • Some people may also experience a feeling of fullness in the ear. Or, in some instances, a ringing or buzzing in the ear.
  • The loss of 30dB or greater when it comes to your hearing. The outside world sounds 30dB quieter than when your hearing was healthy. You’ll definitely notice the difference, but you will need our assistance to measure it.
  • In 9 out of 10 instances, sudden hearing loss affects only one ear. But it is possible for both ears to be affected by SSHL.
  • As the name implies, sudden deafness usually happens quickly. Sudden hearing loss happens within a few days or even within a few hours. As a matter of fact, most individuals wake up in the morning questioning what’s wrong with their ears! Or, perhaps they’re not able to hear the other person talking on the other end of a phone call all of a sudden.

So, is sudden hearing loss permanent? Well, approximately half of everyone who experiences SSHL will recover within a couple of weeks. But rapid treatment is a significant key to success. So you will need to come see us for treatment as soon as possible. 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. Your risk of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible increases the longer you wait.

So… what causes sudden hearing loss?

Here are a few of the leading causes of sudden hearing loss:

  • A reaction to drugs: This may include common drugs like aspirin. Usually, this also includes cisplatin, quinine, or streptomycin and gentamicin (the last two of which are antibiotics.
  • Problems with your blood flow: This could include anything from a high platelet count to a blockage of the cochlear artery.
  • Being continuously exposed to loud music or other loud sound: For most people, loud sound will cause a progressive decline in hearing. But for some people, that decline in hearing may occur suddenly.
  • Head trauma: A traumatic brain injury can be disruptive to the communication between your ears and your brain.
  • Genetic predisposition: In some situations, an increased risk of sudden hearing loss can be passed down from parents to children.
  • Reaction to pain medication: Your risk of experiencing sudden hearing loss is increased by overuse of opioids.
  • Autoimmune disease: Your immune system can, in some cases, start to view your inner ear as a threat. Sudden hearing loss can absolutely be caused by this autoimmune disease.
  • Illnesses: Diseases including mumps, measles, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis have all been known to cause SSHL, for wildly different reasons. So if a disease has a vaccine, it’s a smart plan to get immunized.

The majority of the time, we will be better capable of helping you develop an effective treatment if we can figure out what type of sudden hearing loss you have. But this isn’t always the case. Understanding the exact cause isn’t always essential for effective treatment because lots of types of SSHL have similar treatment strategies.

If you experience sudden hearing loss – what should you do?

So, if you wake up in the morning and suddenly find you can’t hear anything, what should you do? There are a couple of things that you need to do right away. Never just attempt to wait it out. That’s a bad idea! You should wait no longer than 72 hours to get treatment. Getting in touch with us for immediate treatment is the smartest plan. We’ll be able to help you figure out what happened and help you find the most effective course of treatment.

We will most likely conduct an audiogram in our office to identify 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 completely non-invasive). We can make certain you don’t have an obstruction or a conductive issue.

For most patients, the first round of treatment will most likely include steroids. For some individuals, these steroids may be injected directly into the ear. In other situations, pills may be capable of generating the desired effects. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be effectively treated with steroids. You might need to use a medication to reduce your immune response if your SSHL is triggered by an autoimmune disease.

If you or somebody you know has suddenly lost the ability to hear, call us right away for an evaluation..

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.