We typically think of hearing loss as something that develops little by little. It can be difficult to detect the symptoms due to this. (After all, you’re simply turning up the volume on your television once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about, right?) That’s usually the situation, yes, but not always. Sometimes, hearing loss can occur all of a sudden without any early symptoms.
It can be truly alarming when the state of your health suddenly changes. When people’s hair falls out slowly over a very long period of time, for instance, they would most likely chalk it up to aging and simply assume they’re going bald. But you would most likely want to make an appointment with your doctor if you woke up one morning and all your hair had fallen out.
When you suddenly lose your ability to hear, it’s the same thing. There are some really good reasons why acting fast is a good plan!
Sudden hearing loss – what is it?
Long-term hearing loss is more prevalent than sudden hearing loss or SSHL for short. But sudden hearing loss is not really rare, either. Every year, 1 in 5000 individuals experience SSHL.
The symptoms of sudden hearing loss commonly include the following:
- A loud “popping” noise sometimes happens right before sudden hearing loss. But that only occurs sometimes. SSHL isn’t always coupled with this popping sound.
- Sudden hearing loss will affect just one ear in 9 of 10 cases. But it is possible for both ears to be affected by SSHL.
- Some people might also have a feeling of fullness in the ear. Or there might be a ringing or buzzing in some instances.
- As the name implies, sudden deafness typically happens rapidly. This typically means that sudden hearing loss occurs over a matter of hours or days. As a matter of fact, most people wake up in the morning questioning what’s wrong with their ears! Or, perhaps they’re unable to hear the other person talking on the other end of a phone call suddenly.
- The loss of 30dB or greater when it comes to your hearing. That is, the world sounds 30dB quieter from whatever your previous baseline had been. You won’t be capable of measuring this on your own, it’s something we will diagnose. However, it will be apparent.
If you experience SSHL, you might be questioning: is sudden deafness permanent? Well, approximately half of everyone who experiences SSHL will get better within two weeks. However, it’s important to note that one key to success is prompt treatment. So you will need to come see us for treatment as soon as possible. You should schedule an appointment within 72 hours of the start of your symptoms.
In most circumstances, it’s a good idea to treat sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency. Your risk of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible increases the longer you wait.
What’s the cause of sudden hearing loss?
Here are some of the leading causes of sudden hearing loss:
- Reaction to pain medication: Too much use of opioid-related drugs and pain medication can increase your risk of developing sudden hearing loss.
- Autoimmune disease: In some situations, your immune system starts to think that your inner ear is a threat. Sudden hearing loss can definitely be caused by this autoimmune disease.
- Problems with your blood flow: This could include anything from a high platelet count to an obstruction of the cochlear artery.
- Illnesses: Diseases like mumps, measles, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis have all been known to cause SSHL, for wildly different reasons. This is a good reason to get immunized against diseases that have a vaccine.
- Head trauma: A traumatic brain injury can be disruptive to the communication between your brain and your ears.
- A reaction to drugs: Common medications such as aspirin are included in this list. Typically, this also includes cisplatin, quinine, or streptomycin and gentamicin (the last two of which are antibiotics.
- Genetic predisposition: In some cases, a greater risk of sudden deafness can be passed along from parents to children.
- Being continuously exposed to loud music or other loud noise: For most individuals, loud noise will cause a progressive decline in hearing. But for some, that decline in hearing may happen suddenly.
Most of the time, we will be better able to help you formulate an effective treatment if we can figure out what type of sudden hearing loss you’re dealing with. But at times it doesn’t work like that. Many kinds of SSHL are managed similarly, so determining the accurate cause is not always required for successful treatment.
What should you do if you have sudden hearing loss?
So, if you wake up one morning and suddenly discover you can’t hear anything, what should you do? There are some things that you should do immediately. Above all, you shouldn’t just wait for it to go away. That isn’t going to work very well. Rather, you should get treatment within 72 hours. Getting in touch with us for immediate treatment is the best plan. We’ll be able to help you figure out what happened and help you find the most effective course of treatment.
While you’re at our office, you may undergo an audiogram to figure out the amount of hearing loss you’re dealing with (this is the test where we have you put on headphones and raise your hand when you hear beeping, it’s completely non-invasive). We can make certain you don’t have a blockage or a conductive issue.
The first course of treatment will usually include steroids. An injection of these steroids directly into the ear is sometimes required. In other situations, oral medication might be enough. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be successfully treated with steroids. For SSHL due to an autoimmune disease, you might need to take medication that suppresses your immune response.
If you or someone you know has suddenly lost the ability to hear, call us right away for an assessment..