Imagine waking up one morning and not being able to hear your partner or children speaking. Scary isn’t it. Yet this happens to people every single day and still so little is known about the condition.
What exactly is sudden loss of hearing.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), occurs very quickly, usually immediately or over the course of a couple of days. It is generally unexplained but should always be treated as an emergency.
It is quite common for people who get SSHL to ignore the problem at first. They tend to shrug it of as being caused by an infection, ear wax or some other condition. Any delay in seeking medical intervention can hamper the effectiveness of any treatment.
SSHL usually only affects one ear. It can be diagnosed through a hearing test or audiogram. If the test results show a drop in hearing of 30 dB or more across three connected frequencies then SSHL is confirmed. To give an example of this. A loss of 30 dB in one ear would render a normal conversation down to a mere whisper.
People will notice the onset of SSHL in different ways. As I mentioned above some people will recognise it immediately upon waking in the morning. Some will only notice it when someone tries to speak to them on the affected side whilst others will get a loud popping sound in their ear just before their hearing disappears.
The good news is that about half of the people who get SSHL will recover either some or all of their hearing within a couple of weeks, and approximately 80% of those who receive specialist treatment will regain at least some of their hearing capacity.
What are the causes of sudden hearing loss.
This is where a major problem lies for the medical research community and SSHL suffers. There is so much still not known about the causes of sudden hearing loss. Only about 10 to 15% of those with SSHL have an identifiable cause.
Here are some of the most common ones as outlined by the NIH (National institute on deafness),
Trauma, such as a head injury
Autoimmune diseases such as Cogan’s syndrome
Ototoxic drugs (drugs that harm the sensory cells in the inner ear)
Blood circulation problems
A tumor on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain
Neurologic diseases and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis
Disorders of the inner ear, such as Ménière’s disease
I do not have any medical expertise but keep an eye out for future posts looking into the effects of some of the causes mentioned here. Once I have gathered the relevant information I will provide you with full details. I will also be looking further into the various research and studies taking place to better diagnose the causes of SSHL.
Is there any treatment for SSHL.
The treatment received will depend on the diagnosis of the cause of your SSHL. If it is one of the causes mentioned above such as trauma to the head, then an operation may be available. If your SSHL is deemed to be caused by an infection then a course of antibiotics may suffice. Some medications can cause damage to the fine balance of the ear and if you are taking any of these then your doctor will more than likely change your prescription.
However if you are one of the many where the cause is not known, then the most common form of treatment will be steroids, or more specifically corticosteroids. They are used to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Whilst usually taken in pill form, the steroid can also be injected directly behind the eardrum, into the middle ear. From there it will travel down to the inner ear.
What help is available for people who suffer sudden hearing loss.
Outside of the medical assistance you may need, many people find it therapeutic and helpful to engage with people who perhaps have had a similar experience, or who at least can empathise with what you are going through.
You will be able to get information on local help groups from your local hospital or doctor or even from the local library. There are also the online forums such as this website where people can come and discuss any topic related to hearing loss. No one has to suffer this very frightening condition alone. There are always people here to reach out to.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. As always I would love to hear from you. Have you or someone you know suffered from sudden hearing loss? Was the reason ever diagnosed and how are they now? You can leave any comments below and I will answer them as soon as possible.
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