We typically think of hearing loss as something that advances little by little. This can make the symptoms difficult to detect. It’s nothing to concern yourself with, you just need the volume on the TV a little louder, no big deal, right? Sometimes that’s true but in some cases, it isn’t. It turns out hearing loss can also happen suddenly and without much warning.
It can be quite alarming when the condition of your health abruptly changes. When people’s hair falls out gradually 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 if all of your hair fell out in a single day, you would likely feel obliged to schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as you can (and rightfully so).
When you suddenly lose your ability to hear, it’s the same thing. When this takes place, acting fast is crucial.
What is sudden hearing loss?
Long-term hearing loss is more prevalent than sudden hearing loss or SSHL for short. But it isn’t exactly uncommon for people to experience sudden hearing loss. About 1 in 5000 people a year suffer from SSHL.
Here are a few symptoms of sudden hearing loss:
- Sudden hearing loss happens very rapidly as the name indicates. Sudden hearing loss happens within a few days or even within a few hours. In most cases, the person will wake up and their hearing will be suddenly impaired. Or, maybe they’re unable to hear the other person talking on the other end of a phone call suddenly.
- It might seem as if your ear is plugged up. Or there might be a ringing or buzzing in some instances.
- In 9 out of 10 cases, sudden hearing loss impacts only one ear. Having said that, it is possible for SSHL to affect both ears.
- A loud “popping” sound sometimes takes place just before sudden hearing loss. But this isn’t always the situation. It’s possible to experience SSHL without hearing this pop.
- The loss of 30dB or greater in terms of your hearing. The outside world sounds 30dB quieter than when you had healthy hearing. You won’t be capable of measuring this on your own, it’s something we will diagnose. However, it will be apparent.
So, is sudden hearing loss permanent? Well, approximately half of everyone who experiences SSHL will recover within a couple of weeks. However, it’s relevant to note that one key to success is rapid treatment. So you will need to come see us for treatment as soon as possible. When you first notice the symptoms, you should wait no longer than 72 hours.
In most circumstances, it’s a good strategy to treat sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency. The longer you delay treatment, the greater your risk of sudden hearing loss becoming irreversible.
So… what triggers sudden hearing loss?
Some of the top causes of sudden hearing loss include the following:
- Head trauma: A traumatic brain injury can do much to disrupt the communication between your ears and your brain.
- Illnesses: There are a number of health conditions that, for significantly different reasons, can trigger SSHL, such as multiple sclerosis, meningitis, measles, and mumps. So if a disease has a vaccine, it’s a smart plan to get immunized.
- Genetic predisposition: Genetic predisposition can in some cases be responsible for sudden hearing loss.
- Repeated exposure to loud noise, such as music: For most individuals, loud sound will cause a progressive decline in hearing. But for some people, that decline in hearing could happen suddenly.
- A reaction to drugs: This could include common drugs like aspirin. This list can also include some antibiotics, like streptomycin and gentamicin, and other prevalent medicines including cisplatin and quinine.
- Problems with your blood flow: Things like obstructed cochlear arteries and high platelet counts are included in this category.
- Reaction to pain medication: Your risk of developing sudden hearing loss is raised by excessive use of opioids.
- Autoimmune disease: In some cases, your immune system starts to believe that your inner ear is a threat. Sudden hearing loss can absolutely be triggered by this autoimmune disease.
Most of the time, we will be better able to help you formulate an effective treatment if we can ascertain what type of sudden hearing loss you have. But sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Knowing the precise cause isn’t always essential for effective treatment because many forms of SSHL have similar treatment strategies.
What should you do if you have sudden loss of hearing?
So what action should you take if you wake up one day and find that you can’t hear anything? Well, there are a couple of important steps you should take as soon as possible. Don’t just try to play the waiting game. That’s a bad plan! Rather, you should seek treatment within 72 hours. Getting in touch with us for immediate treatment is the smartest plan. We’ll be in the best position to help you establish what’s wrong and how to deal with it.
While at our office, you may undergo an audiogram to determine the level of hearing loss you’re dealing with (this is a completely non-invasive test where you wear some headphones and raise your hand when you hear a beep). We can make certain you don’t have a blockage or a conductive issue.
For most people, the first round of treatment will most likely include steroids. For some individuals, these steroids might be injected directly into the ear. For others, pills might be capable of generating the desired results. SSHL of numerous root causes (or no known cause) can be effectively treated with steroids. You might need to take a medication to inhibit your immune response if your SSHL is due to an autoimmune disease.
Have you or someone you know suddenly lost hearing? Give us a call today to schedule a hearing exam.