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.

Think of the parents who consistently put the needs of their children ahead of their own, making sure their kids get proactive and reactive care when needed, 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 people who live by an “ignorance is bliss” approach and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what action would you take if you needed more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had complete hearing loss in one if not both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good chance your hearing will never come back if you simply attempt to put it off. Hearing specialists caution that sudden, temporary hearing loss might progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, specifically 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 rapid 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. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans might experience sudden loss of hearing each year.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Due to the fact that the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to discover what causes most cases. The sad fact is that pinpointing a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Out of those cases that hearing experts can pinpoint, 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 of recovering at least some of your normal function.

How do You Handle Sudden Hearing Loss?

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

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the preferred method of treatment has changed. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial established by the NIDCD discovered that an injection of steroids into the eardrum was just as reliable as oral steroids, even allowing the medication to go directly into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral alternatives. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

Another reason why seeking immediate medical care is so important is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests can even test your ability to keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.

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

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 many aspects of sudden hearing loss remain a mystery, researchers and medical experts have proven over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing specialist if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.

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