Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL), commonly known as sudden deafness is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.
Sudden deafness frequently affects only one ear.
Our ability to hear allows us to connect with the world around us, and any interruption to this sense can be alarming. Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL) is an abrupt and unexplained loss of hearing, typically in one ear. At AAENT, we aim to offer prompt diagnosis and treatment to those facing this unsettling condition, ensuring a timely return to auditory clarity.
People with sudden hearing loss or SSHL often discover hearing loss upon waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just before their hearing disappears. People with sudden deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms: a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their ears, such as tinnitus.
Why is Sudden Hearing Loss a Medical Emergency?
Sudden Hearing Loss is an urgent matter! The sooner you seek attention for your sudden hearing loss, the better your chances are for a full recovery, even if the cause remains unknown. Treatment with steroids can rapidly decrease harmful inflammation that can damage the inner ear. It is extremely important that treatment with steroids is begun as soon as possible for the best effect and may even be recommended before all test results come back. About 50 percent of people who experience SSNHL will spontaneously recover all or some of their hearing within one to two weeks, but the remainder will require urgent treatment to recover hearing. It is vital to seek treatment as soon as possible, as the window to restore hearing closes about two to four weeks after the onset of the hearing loss. After that, the hearing loss will likely become permanent and irreversible. Please seek evaluation and treatment right away, and do not delay. Urgent evaluation and treatment can prevent permanent hearing loss.
Symptoms of Sudden Hearing Loss
- Rapid loss of hearing, typically in one ear, over a span of 72 hours.
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sound in the ear).
- Dizziness or balance issues.
What causes sudden hearing loss?
A variety of disorders affecting the ear can cause SSHL, but only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with SSHL have an identifiable cause. Some of these conditions include: viral infection, an immune system malfunction, an inflammatory injury to the ear, blocked blood flow to the ear, neurological disorders, Meniere’s disease, exposure to certain drugs.
How is sudden hearing loss treated?
The most common treatment for sudden deafness, especially when the cause is unknown, is corticosteroids. Steroids can treat many disorders and usually work by reducing inflammation, decreasing swelling, and helping the body fight illness. Previously, steroids were given in pill form. At AAENT, Drs. Kleiman, Meek and Wachal are skilled at a specialized intratympanic (through the eardrum) injection of steroids. Direct intratympanic injection of steroids into the middle ear and flowing to the inner ear, has proven to be as effective a treatment as oral steroids, without the systemic side effects. The injections can be performed in the office as an outpatient and are a good option for people who cannot take oral steroids or want to avoid their side effects.
Treatment that is delayed for more than two to four weeks is less likely to reverse or reduce permanent hearing loss.
Additional treatments may be needed if your doctor discovers an underlying cause of your SSHL. For example, if SSHL is caused by an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If you took drugs that were toxic to the ear, you may be advised to switch to another drug. If an autoimmune condition caused your immune system to attack the inner ear, the doctor may prescribe drugs that suppress the immune system.
Understanding the Gravity of Sudden Hearing Loss
The delicate nature of our auditory system means that any sudden change requires immediate attention. SHL is not just about decreased hearing; it’s an indication that something has disrupted the normal functioning of the inner ear or the auditory nerve. It can be a consequence of various underlying conditions, including viral infections, circulatory issues, or inner ear problems. Beyond the physical implications, SHL can significantly impact a person’s emotional and social well-being.
Treatment Process at AAENT
Safeguarding Your Hearing: Prevention Tips
While the exact cause of SHL often remains elusive, certain preventive measures can be adopted. Regular hearing assessments, especially if you’re exposed to loud environments, are crucial. Protecting your ears from excessive noise and keeping them dry to avoid infections are also vital. Additionally, maintaining overall health and being cautious with ototoxic medications can contribute to ear health.
Navigating the Complexities of Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL)
The field of ENT medicine has witnessed impressive strides in recent years, particularly in diagnosing and treating conditions like SHL. Rapid innovations and a deeper understanding of the condition mean that patients now stand a far better chance of reclaiming their lost auditory capabilities when they seek timely medical intervention. While the initial realization of SHL can be overwhelming for many, the expert team at AAENT remains steadfast in their commitment. Through meticulous care and advanced treatment modalities, they aim to infuse the melodies of sound back into the lives of their patients, helping them regain the full spectrum of life’s auditory experiences.
Our ears are intricate structures, and when they signal distress through conditions like SHL, they deserve the best care. At AAENT, our team of dedicated doctors merges expertise with compassion. With a focus on personalized care and cutting-edge treatments, we offer hope and healing to those navigating the challenges of sudden hearing loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What causes Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL)?
A: While the exact cause of SHL can be elusive, potential triggers include viral infections, circulatory problems, or issues within the inner ear. It’s essential to consult a doctor at AAENT to pinpoint the cause and begin appropriate treatment.
Q: How quickly should I seek treatment if I suspect I have SHL?
A: Immediate attention is crucial for Sudden Hearing Loss. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the potential outcomes. If you experience a rapid loss of hearing, contact AAENT as soon as possible.
Q: Is the hearing loss from SHL permanent?
A: Not always. With prompt and appropriate treatment, many patients experience significant improvements in their hearing. Regular follow-ups and adherence to prescribed treatments are key to the best outcomes.
Take the First Step Towards Better Hearing
Every moment counts if you or a loved one experiences a sudden loss of hearing. Reach out to us at (410) 573-9191. Let the seasoned team at AAENT guide you on the path to clear hearing and renewed confidence.