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

More frequently than we would like to admit, in our modern day society, we put off on health care.

Consider the parents who consistently put the needs of their children before of their own, making sure their kids get proactive and reactive care when necessary, but neglecting 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 live by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply this year’s preventive flu shot or something to get rid of a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one morning with sudden and complete hearing loss in one if not both ears?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will not ever come back if you simply attempt to wait it out. Hearing experts warn that abrupt, temporary hearing loss could advance to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, especially if the damage is at the nerve level.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

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

Many people would be surprised to find out 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 loss of hearing. Having said that, the NIDCD warns that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans might develop sudden hearing loss each year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually occur over several hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

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

Your best chance of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.

How do You Handle Sudden Hearing Loss?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid use, the purpose is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.

The preferred method of treatment has changed since researchers have done more studies on sudden hearing loss and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects associated with the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the downsides of oral alternatives by allowing the medication to go directly into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

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

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

Given the lack of concrete information about the cause of sudden hearing loss, continuing research goes deeper into what may be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have proven that even though they may not have all the answers about sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is improved by seeking early treatment. 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.
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