Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), commonly known as sudden hearing loss, should be considered a medical emergency. As professionals, we train our patients to see their family doctor at the onset of a sudden hearing loss, and if the doctor can’t immediately see the patient, to go to their nearest emergency room.
Why is treatment so important?
Only about 50 percent of those with sudden hearing loss will recover some of their hearing if not treated. About 80 – 85 percent of those who are treated properly will recover most or some of their hearing loss. Some erroneously think it is due to a cold, a sinus infection or allergies, so they put off or ignore treatment. Know that delaying proper treatment always decreases the effectiveness and recovery.
What causes sudden hearing loss?
There is not one real reason for SSHL. Sudden hearing loss is not a virus or a disease that can be caught. Less than 20 percent of those with SSHL are diagnosed with an identifiable cause. Some listed causes of SSHL are trauma to the head, poor blood circulation, drugs that may affect the sensory cells, diseases or disorders like multiple sclerosis or tumors along the eighth nerve connecting the ear to the brain
How do you treat sudden hearing loss?
Probably the most common practice of treating SSHL is prescribing steroids (corticosteroids). They decrease inflammation or swelling, which helps the body fight the illness. In the past, steroids were prescribed using pills, but recently, steroids are injected into the middle ear past the eardrum. This practice allows the steroids to reach the inner ear at a faster rate.
If you are taking drugs that are toxic to the ear, you may be advised to stop or switch to another drug. Sometimes your immune system may be the cause of sudden hearing loss. If this happens, you may be prescribed medications to suppress your immune system.
In the hearing industry, we often see patients suffering from sudden sensorineural hearing loss. We always recommend you immediately see your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. The sooner you get treatment, the better chance of saving your hearing.