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.

Think of the parents who continually put the needs of their children ahead of their own, ensuring their children obtain proactive and reactive care when necessary, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. How about professionals who won’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are people who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they could 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 unexpected and total loss of hearing in one or both ears?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will never return if you just try to wait it out. Hearing professionals warn that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it might become permanent.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals who experience sudden hearing loss–the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Many people would be shocked to know how often 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 quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden hearing loss.

The term “sudden” is a bit 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?

Doctors are frequently not able to find the cause as it occurs over hours or even days. The sad reality is that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be determined. 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 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 the majority of cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the goal is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the preferred method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were historically 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 linked to 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 enabling the medication to go directly into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral options. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A group of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem causing your sudden loss of hearing can be set up by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is essential. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even a test of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

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

While many factors of sudden loss of hearing are still a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have proven over and over that early treatment improves your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. If you have hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should get in touch with a hearing expert immediately.

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