Early Treatment Gives Hope to Those With Sudden Loss of Hearing

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

More often than we would care to admit, in today’s society, we neglect health care.

Consider the parents who continually put the needs of their children in front of their own, making sure their children obtain proactive and reactive care when required, but failing to do the same for themselves. 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 scared of what they could hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu shot or something to deal with a sinus infection? If you woke up one morning and had total loss of hearing in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to wait it out until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated immediately, particularly 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 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 frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. 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 warns that the number 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 could develop sudden loss of hearing every year.

The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misnomer in this situation as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can take place over a few hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are frequently not able to figure out the cause because it occurs over hours or even days. The unfortunate fact is that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be determined. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As stated, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the onset of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance to recover at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In cases when the cause is not known and in many other cases, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

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 people 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 through the eardrum proved to be as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the drawbacks to oral alternatives by letting the medicine to go right into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A group of tests that might diagnose the underlying problem causing your sudden hearing loss can be ordered 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 balance.

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

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

While many aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical specialists have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Make an appointment with a hearing specialist if you have 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.