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

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

Consider people who ignore their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. How about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are people who are frightened of what they could hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what action would you take if you required more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? 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 never return if you just attempt to wait it out. Hearing experts warn that abrupt, temporary loss of hearing could advance to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, specifically if the damage is at the nerve level.

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 shocked to know how often sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. Having said that, the NIDCD warns that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden hearing loss.

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

Due to the fact that the onset can take place over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what causes most cases. The sad truth is that determining a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

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

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

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

The preferred means of treatment has evolved since researchers have conducted more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to use oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even side-stepping the downsides of oral alternatives by letting the medication to flow right into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that may diagnose the root issue causing your sudden hearing loss can be arranged by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is important. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even a test of your balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the problem but truthfully, there’s a lack of solid facts about the cause of sudden loss of hearing. New developments with infusing drugs into small microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

Researchers have shown that even though they might not have all the answers about sudden loss of hearing, your chances of getting your hearing back is improved by getting early treatment. Contact a hearing professional if you are experiencing hearing loss of any kind.