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

In today’s society, putting off health care is a situation that takes place more often than we’d like to admit.

Consider people who ignore their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. You can say the same for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had total hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to wait it out until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing specialists caution that abrupt, temporary hearing loss might progress 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 individuals 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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than some might believe. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss can actually take place over several hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are usually not able to figure out the cause because it happens over hours or even days. The sad reality is that only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. Out of those cases that hearing professionals can pinpoint, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As stated, getting treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance to recover at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In many cases, specifically those where the cause is unknown, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has become more modern and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the preferred method of treatment has evolved. Pill form is how these steroids were historically prescribed, but this presented a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects linked to the medication.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to go directly into the inner ear, without the drawback of the oral options. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem causing your sudden loss of hearing can be ordered by your doctor and that’s another reason why getting immediate medical attention is essential. These tests can even check whether you can keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging methods.

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

Researchers continue to work on the problem but frankly, there’s a lack of concrete information about the cause of sudden loss of hearing. New advancements with infusing drugs into small microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what might be a safer way.

Researchers have shown that even though they may not have all the answers about sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is increased by getting early treatment. If you have hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should contact a hearing professional right away.