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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a scenario that happens more often than we’d like to admit.

Think about people who ignore their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. You can say the same for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who live by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what action would you take if you required more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had total hearing loss in one if not both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing comes back, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing specialists 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 rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than is commonly recognized. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD cautions that the quantity 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 might experience sudden loss of hearing every year.

The term “sudden” is a bit of a misconception in this instance as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can occur over several hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Due to the fact that the onset can take place over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what’s behind the cause for most cases. The unfortunate reality is that only around 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Out of those cases that hearing professionals 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 start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance to recover at least some of your normal function.

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In cases when the cause is not known and in many other cases, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

The preferred means of treatment has evolved since researchers have carried out more studies on sudden hearing loss and medicine has modernized. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were unable to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as reliable as oral steroids, even enabling the medication to flow directly into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral alternatives. These injections have now become a common method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is so important is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the fundamental problem behind your sudden loss of hearing or another dangerous condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even a test of your balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

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

While some aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical experts have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing professional if you have hearing loss of any type.

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