Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
The majority of hearing loss happens at a very slow pace, taking several years to a decade or more to progress to the point where an individual has a real problem. A scarier scenario is sudden hearing loss which is defined as a hearing loss of greater than 30 dB over 3 contiguous pure-tone frequencies occurring within 3 days’ period. In laymen’s terms, this means that if over the course of 3 days or less your hearing gets at least 20-30% worse, you are experiencing sudden hearing loss- and this is something to be alarmed about.

Sudden hearing loss affects an estimated 5-20/100,000 people each year. The average age of affected individuals is about 50 years old, though people a lot less younger than also be affected. The majority of sudden hearing loss cases affect only one ear- it’s pretty rare for both ears to be affected. In the majority of cases sudden hearing loss is “idiopathic”- doctors can’t determine the cause. In these cases they’ll prescribe oral steroids which have proven to help patients recover from sudden hearing loss. Sometimes the cause of sudden hearing loss is a high platelet count or a blockage of an artery in the cochlea, which delivers blood from the heart to the ear. Autoimmune inner ear disease is another reason for sudden hearing loss- this is when the body’s immune system attacks parts of the ear. Using too many opiate drugs can also cause sudden hearing loss. If doctors are able to identify the cause, they are often able to treat the hearing loss by dealing with the underlying medical condition.

Though sudden hearing loss often comes fast and without warning, if treated quickly enough the prognosis for some return recovery of hearing is good. Unfortunately, the majority of people who suffer from sudden hearing loss don’t do anything about it- they think it will fix itself. This is rarely the case. Believing “it’s just wax” or “it’ll go away in time” is almost always incorrect when you suddenly lose your hearing. Sudden hearing loss is something that you need to get checked out right away by an ear nose and throat doctor. Sudden hearing loss is far more serious than an ear plugged with wax, and immediate treatment is vital. In fact, if you see the ear doctor within 48 hours of suddenly losing your hearing, there is a good chance that some of your hearing can probably be preserved- if you wait a lot longer than that, you’re probably going to have some permanent sensorineural hearing loss.

Once your sudden hearing loss is treated, if you do have a remaining permanent hearing loss, advances in hearing aid technology and cochlear implants can really help improve communication for people affected by hearing loss.

If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.

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