Early Treatment Gives Hope to Those With Sudden Hearing Loss

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

In today’s society, delaying health care is a scenario that happens more frequently than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider the parents who continually 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. What about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are people who are frightened of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what action would you take if you needed more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and complete loss of hearing in one if not both ears?

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing professionals warn that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, peculiarly if it’s at the nerve level, it may become permanent.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

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. That said, the NIDCD warns that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to go up if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans might develop sudden loss of hearing every year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually occur over a few hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misconception.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Because the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The unfortunate fact is that only around 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Out of those cases that hearing specialists 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.

As mentioned, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance of recovering at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid use, the goal is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has become more modern and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the preferred method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but this presented a challenge for those who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects connected with the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to flow right into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral options. These injections are now a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why seeking prompt medical care is so crucial is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the root issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even an examination of your balance.

We May be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

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

While some aspects of sudden hearing loss continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have proven over and over that early treatment improves your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing professional if you are experiencing hearing loss of any kind.

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.