Early Treatment Gives Hope to Those Who Have Sudden Loss of Hearing

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

More frequently than we would care to admit, in our modern day society, we neglect health care.

Consider the parents who consistently put the needs of their children ahead of their own, making certain their sons and daughters obtain proactive and reactive care when needed, but failing to do the same for themselves. What about professionals who won’t fit in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are people who live 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 needed more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with sudden and complete loss of hearing in one or both ears?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, particularly 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 occurs. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden loss of hearing.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are frequently not able to determine the cause because it occurs over hours or even days. The unfortunate truth is that identifying a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. 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.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In the majority of cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have done additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to use oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the downsides of oral alternatives by letting the medicine to flow straight into the ear. These injections are now a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting immediate medical attention is so crucial is that your doctor may order a group of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem behind your sudden loss of hearing 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 May be on The Horizon

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

While many aspects of sudden loss of hearing 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 type.

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.