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

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

Consider people who ignore their own health care so they can get protection for their children. The same goes for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and complete loss of hearing in one or both ears?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing experts 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 may become permanent.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals 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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than some might believe. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were taken into consideration, that number would go up significantly. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden loss of hearing.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Due to the fact that the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what causes most cases. The unfortunate fact is that determining a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

Your best chance of recovering at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

In most cases, specifically those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the preferred method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but this was a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects linked to the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the drawbacks of oral alternatives by letting the medication to flow right into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

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

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

Given the lack of solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, ongoing research digs deeper into what could be the culprit. New developments with infusing drugs into little microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

Researchers have shown that even though they might not have all the answers regarding sudden loss of hearing, your chances of restoring your hearing is increased by seeking early treatment. Make an appointment with a hearing professional if you are experiencing hearing loss of any kind.

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