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

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

Consider people who ignore their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. What about professionals who won’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are those who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and stay away from the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one day and had complete hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is just to wait it out until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of immediately, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.

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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than some might believe. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans may experience sudden loss of hearing every year.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are frequently unable to figure out the cause because it comes on over hours or even days. The sad reality is that determining a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes include autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As mentioned, getting 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.

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In cases when the cause is unknown and in many other cases, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.

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

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD found that an injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be just as reliable as oral steroids, even making it possible for the medication to go straight into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral options. These injections have now become a normal method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting prompt medical attention is so crucial is that your doctor might order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another threatening condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even a test of your balance.

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

Researchers continue to work on the problem but honestly, there is a lack of solid facts around 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 may be a safer way.

While some factors of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical experts have proven over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Make an appointment with a hearing expert if you have hearing loss of any kind.

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