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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a scenario that takes place more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Think about people who neglect their own health care so they can get 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 individuals who are afraid of what they might hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had complete hearing loss in one if not both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will never return if you simply attempt to wait it out. Hearing specialists warn that sudden, temporary hearing loss could progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, particularly if the damage is at the nerve level.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than is commonly recognized. 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 figure to go up if you were to include them. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans might experience sudden hearing loss each year.

Sudden hearing loss can actually happen over a few hours or days so the term is a bit of a misconception.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are usually unable to figure out the cause as it happens over hours or even days. The unfortunate reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Of those that hearing experts can pinpoint, the most common causes include autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As mentioned, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best possibility of recovering at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In most cases, especially those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

The preferred method of treatment has evolved since researchers have done more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has modernized. Pill form is how these steroids were historically prescribed, but for individuals who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD discovered that an injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be just as reliable as oral steroids, even side-stepping the downsides to oral alternatives by allowing the medication to go straight into the ear. These injections are now a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why seeking prompt medical care is so crucial is that your doctor may order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests can even check your ability to keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.

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

Given the lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research goes deeper into what could be the culprit. New advancements with infusing drugs into tiny microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what may be a safer way.

While many factors of sudden hearing loss are still a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have proven over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should get in touch with a hearing specialist right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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