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

In our modern society, delaying health care is a scenario that occurs more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Consider the parents who continually put the needs of their children before of their own, making certain their children receive 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 fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who are frightened of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply your annual preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one morning and had total hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever return if you just attempt to wait it out. Hearing professionals warn that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.

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 know how often sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans might develop sudden hearing loss every year.

The term “sudden” is a bit of a misconception in this situation 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?

Doctors are often not able to determine the cause because it occurs over hours or even days. The sad truth is that identifying a cause is possible in only 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.

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

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In the majority of cases, specifically those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has become more modern and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the preferred method of treatment has evolved. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were leery of the side effects of medication or were unable to use oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD found 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 downside of the oral options. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

Another reason why seeking immediate medical attention 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 may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even an examination of your balance.

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

Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research digs deeper into what could 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 might 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 expert if you have hearing loss of any type.

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