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

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

Consider the parents who continually put the needs of their children in front of their own, making certain their children obtain proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. 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 those who are frightened of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what action would you take if you needed more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and complete hearing loss in one if not both ears?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever return if you simply try to put it off. Hearing professionals warn that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, especially 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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than some might believe. In fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. With that being said, the NIDCD warns that the amount 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 each year.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are often unable to figure out the cause because it happens over hours or even days. The sad truth is that pinpointing a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

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

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

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

The recommended means of treatment has evolved since researchers have done more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has modernized. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for individuals who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even making it possible for the medication to go right into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral options. These injections are now a common approach to treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is so important is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the fundamental problem behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the problem but truthfully, there is a lack of concrete information about the cause of sudden loss of hearing. New developments with infusing drugs into tiny microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

Researchers have proven that even though they might not have all the answers regarding sudden loss of hearing, your chances of restoring your hearing is improved by getting early treatment. Contact a hearing specialist if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.

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