Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sudden deafness, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), strikes one person per 5,000 every year, typically adults in their 40s and 50s. SSHL usually comes on suddenly and rapidly, and nine out of 10 people with SSHL lose hearing in one ear.

Most people who experience sudden hearing loss delay treatment or don’t seek treatment at all, because they think the condition is due to allergies, sinus infections, or earwax impaction. If you suspect you have SSHL, seek immediate medical care, because any delayed treatment could result in a permanent hearing loss.

How Is Sudden Sensorineural Loss Diagnosed?

Pure tone audiometry is hearing test used to diagnose SSHL. This test helps answer if your hearing loss is due to one of the following conditions: 1) Sound is not reaching the inner ear due to an obstruction (fluid or earwax), or 2) The ear is not processing the sound that reaches it due to a sensorineural deficit. With this test, your hearing specialist will also be able to determine the range of hearing that’s been lost. If you have a hearing loss of at least 30 decibels in three connected frequencies, the hearing loss is diagnosed as SSHL.

To further diagnose SSHL, your doctor may order other tests, such as a balance test, blood test, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine the underlying cause for your SSHL.

What Are The Signs of A Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

The sudden onset of symptoms is different for everyone; however, many people report that they experience

● Dizziness
● Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
● Sudden, loud pop in their ear

For others, they report that they didn’t have any physical symptoms, but rather noticed the hearing loss when they woke in the morning or when they tried to use their phone with the deafened ear.

What Causes Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

About 80% of people diagnosed with SSHL do not have any identifiable cause. For the other 20%, causes have been attributed to secondary issues associated with primary illnesses or medical conditions, including:

● Ototoxic Drugs (drugs that affect the sensory cells in the inner ear)
● Autoimmune Diseases (such as Cogan’s Syndrome)
● Trauma (head injury)
● Infectious Diseases
● Blood Circulation Problems
● Tumors (tumors on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain)
● Neurologic Diseases and Disorders (such as Multiple Sclerosis)
● Disorders of the Inner Ear (such as Ménière’s Disease)

How Is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treated?

The primary treatment for patients who have an undetermined cause for their SSHL is corticosteroids, as they reduce inflammation, decrease swelling, and help the body fight illness. Patients can either take oral corticosteroids (pill form) or they can have a steroid injection placed behind the eardrum directly into the middle ear where the steroids travel to the inner ear (intratympanic corticosteroid therapy). The injection is a better choice for patients who cannot take oral steroids, but there may be some discomfort associated with this method of delivery.

If your doctor discovers the underlying cause for your SSHL, he/she may recommend additional treatments. For example, if you have an infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics; if you have a toxic reaction to a medication that is affecting your ear, your doctor may prescribe a different medication; or if you have an autoimmune condition and your immune system is attacking your inner ear, your doctor may prescribe a medication that will prevent your immune system from doing this.

What Are The Chances Hearing Will Be Restored?

Patients who seek diagnosis and treatment from doctors who specialize in diseases of the ears, nose, and throat (an otolaryngologist or ENT doctor) have an 85% better chance of restoring most of their hearing. Of those who seek no diagnosis and treatment, nearly half may have their hearing restored spontaneously within 1 or 2 weeks from onset of hearing loss.

Call ENT of Parker at (303) 840-9690 to schedule an appointment with one of our hearing specialists to address your hearing loss and treatment options.