Hearing loss has a track record for advancing gradually. This can make the symptoms easy to miss. It’s nothing to concern yourself with, you just need the volume on the TV a little louder, no big deal, right? That’s usually the situation, yes, but not always. In some situations, hearing loss can occur suddenly without any early symptoms.
It can be very alarming when the condition of your health suddenly changes. For example, if your hair falls out a little bit at a time, it’s no big deal, you’re just going bald! But if all of your hair fell out overnight, you would likely feel compelled to schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can (and rightfully so).
When you suddenly lose your ability to hear, it’s the same thing. When this happens, acting fast is crucial.
What is sudden hearing loss?
Sudden hearing loss (sometimes called sudden deafness or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or simply SSHL for short) isn’t generally as common as the longer-term type of hearing loss most individuals encounter. But sudden hearing loss is not really rare, either. About 1 in 5000 people per year suffer from SSHL.
Here are a few symptoms of sudden hearing loss:
- Some individuals hear a loud “pop” before their hearing starts to disappear. But that only happens sometimes. SSHL isn’t always coupled with this popping noise.
- It might seem like your ear is plugged up. Or, in some cases, a ringing or buzzing in the ear.
- As the name suggests, sudden deafness typically happens quickly. Sudden hearing loss develops within a few days or even within a few hours. As a matter of fact, most individuals wake up in the morning wondering what’s wrong with their hearing! Or, they may take a phone call and question why they can’t hear anything on the other end.
- The loss of 30dB or greater with regards to your hearing. The outside world sounds 30dB quieter than when your hearing was healthy. You’ll definitely notice the difference, but you will need our help to measure it.
- Sudden hearing loss will impact just one ear in 9 of 10 cases. But it is possible for both ears to be impacted by SSHL.
If you experience SSHL, you may be wondering: is sudden deafness permanent? Actually, within a couple of weeks, hearing will come back for around 50% of individuals who experience SSHL. But prompt treatment is a significant key to success. This means you will want to undergo treatment as quickly as you can. You should make an appointment within 72 hours of the onset of your symptoms.
In most cases, it’s a good strategy to treat sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency. The longer you wait, the greater your chance of sudden hearing loss becoming permanent.
So… what triggers sudden hearing loss?
Here are some of the leading causes of sudden hearing loss:
- Head trauma: The communication between your ears and your brain can be disrupted by a traumatic brain injury.
- Ongoing exposure to loud noise, like music: For most people, loud sound will cause a gradual decline in hearing. But for some, that decline in hearing may happen suddenly.
- Problems with your blood flow: This could include anything from a high platelet count to a blockage of the cochlear artery.
- Reaction to pain medication: Too much use of opioid-related drugs and pain medication can raise your risk of experiencing sudden hearing loss.
- Autoimmune disease: Your immune system can, in some instances, begin to view your inner ear as a threat. Sudden hearing loss can absolutely be caused by this autoimmune disease.
- A reaction to drugs: Common medications like aspirin are included in this list. This list can also include some antibiotics, like streptomycin and gentamicin, and other prevalent medications including cisplatin and quinine.
- Genetic predisposition: Genetic predisposition can sometimes be responsible for sudden hearing loss.
- Illnesses: Diseases including mumps, measles, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis have all been known to trigger SSHL, for significantly different reasons. This is a good reason to get immunized against diseases that have a vaccine.
The majority of the time, we will be better capable of helping you formulate an effective treatment if we can ascertain what type of sudden hearing loss you have. But this isn’t always the situation. Numerous kinds of SSHL are addressed similarly, so knowing the precise cause isn’t always required for effective treatment.
What should you do if you have sudden loss of hearing?
So what should you do if you wake up one day and find that you can’t hear anything? There are some things that you need to do immediately. Above all, you shouldn’t just wait for it to go away. That’s not a good plan! You should wait no longer than 72 hours to get treatment. It’s best to schedule an appointment with us immediately. We’ll be able to help you figure out what went wrong and help you find the most effective course of treatment.
We will most likely perform an audiogram in our office to find out your degree of hearing loss (this is a completely non-invasive test where you wear some headphones and raise your hand when you hear a beep). We will also make sure you don’t have any blockages or a possible conductive cause for your hearing loss.
The first course of treatment will usually include steroids. For some people, these steroids might be injected directly into the ear. In other situations, pills might be capable of generating the desired results. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be effectively treated with steroids. For SSHL due to an autoimmune disease, you might need to take medication that inhibits your immune response.
If you or somebody you know has suddenly lost the ability to hear, call us right away for an assessment..