Imagine going about your daily routine and suddenly realizing that you can’t hear as well as you used to. It’s a scary and overwhelming feeling, but the good news is that with early treatment, sudden hearing loss can often be successfully managed.
Sudden Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know
Sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), is defined as a loss of hearing that occurs over a 72-hour period or less. It affects around 5 in every 100,000 people, and while it can happen to anyone, it is more common in people over the age of 60.
The causes of sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), are not always clear. However, potential factors include:
Viral infections: Some viral infections, such as herpes and mumps, can cause inflammation in the inner ear and lead to sudden hearing loss.
Exposure to loud noises: Prolonged exposure to loud noises can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. This can happen gradually over time or suddenly, such as in the case of an explosion or gunfire.
Certain medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can cause hearing loss as a side effect.
Underlying medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as Meniere’s disease and autoimmune disorders, can cause sudden hearing loss.
Trauma: Injury to the head or ear can also cause sudden hearing loss.
It is also possible for SSHL to be caused by a combination of factors. For example, if a person has an underlying medical condition that makes them more susceptible to viral infections, a viral infection could then cause sudden hearing loss.
It’s also important to mention that in some cases, the cause of sudden hearing loss may never be determined. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible, regardless of the cause. The earlier treatment is started, the better the chances of recovery.
Symptoms to Watch For
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing sudden hearing loss, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Common symptoms include:
- Sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Diagnosis and Treatment
When you visit an audiologist or hearing specialist, they will conduct a thorough examination to determine the cause of your hearing loss and the best course of treatment. This may include:
- Audiometry: a test that measures how well you hear different tones and pitches
- MRI: an imaging test that can help identify any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your hearing loss
Based on the results of these tests, your doctor may recommend one of several treatment options, including:
Steroids: High-dose steroids have been shown to be effective in treating sudden hearing loss, particularly when started within the first 14 days. The exact mechanism of how steroids work is not entirely understood, but it is believed that they help reduce inflammation in the inner ear.
Antiviral Medications: If a viral infection is suspected as the cause of your sudden hearing loss, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications. These medications can help to reduce inflammation and prevent further damage to the inner ear.
Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to correct underlying medical conditions that are causing your hearing loss.
It’s important to note that the success of treatment for sudden hearing loss can vary greatly from person to person, and in some cases, hearing may not fully return. However, early treatment can help prevent further damage and improve your chances of recovery.
Preventing Sudden Hearing Loss
While sudden hearing loss can be difficult to predict and prevent, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk, such as protecting your ears from loud noises, managing underlying medical conditions, and avoiding medications that can cause hearing loss.
Sudden hearing loss can be a scary and overwhelming experience, but with early treatment, it can often be successfully managed. If you or a loved one is experiencing sudden hearing loss, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. At our hearing practice, we are dedicated to providing you with the best care and support to help you regain your hearing and get back to enjoying the sounds of life.