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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a situation that takes place more frequently than we’d like to acknowledge.

Consider people who disregard their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. You can say the same for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who are afraid of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you required more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had complete loss of hearing in one or both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever return if you simply try to wait it out. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, peculiarly if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.

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.

Many people would be surprised to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss happens. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans might experience 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 happen over several hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Because the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what causes most cases. The sad fact is that determining a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

As stated, getting treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best possibility to recover at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the purpose is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

The preferred method of treatment has evolved since researchers have done more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for individuals who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum was as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to flow right into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral alternatives. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

Another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is so important is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another threatening condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even a test of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the issue but honestly, there is a lack of solid facts around the cause of sudden loss of hearing. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have shown that even though they may not have all the answers regarding sudden hearing loss, your chances of restoring your hearing is improved by getting early treatment. Make an appointment with a hearing professional if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.