Hearing loss comes on gradually for most people who experience it. However, if you experience sudden hearing loss, it’s important to seek treatment right away.
What Is Sudden Hearing Loss?
Much like the name suggests, sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) is hearing loss that comes on rapidly. It can occur all at once or over a period of several days and usually affects one ear but can affect both. In addition to hearing loss, many people with the condition may experience dizziness and tinnitus as well. Though it can affect people of all ages, it’s most common in those in their 50s and 60s. When it happens, you may feel a pop or pressure in your ear.
What Causes a Sudden Loss of Hearing?
There are many potential causes of SSHL, and sometimes the cause can be unknown. Possible causes include:
- Head trauma
- Certain infections
- Problems with circulation
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis
- Inner ear disorders like Meniere’s disease
- Taking certain medications to treat severe infections or cancer. These drugs can be ototoxic which means they have the potential to damage the nerves of the inner ear.
- In rarer cases, SSHL may be a sign of a stroke or brain tumor
The Importance of Seeking Immediate Treatment
Though SSHL can resolve itself on its own, it’s still very important to seek treatment quickly so that it does not become permanent. According to the National Institution on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “Delaying SSHL diagnosis and treatment can decrease treatment effectiveness. Receiving timely treatment greatly increases the chance that you will recover at least some of your hearing.”
Treating Sudden Hearing Loss
At your appointment, your doctor or audiologist will thoroughly examine your ears to determine if something like earwax buildup or another obstruction is causing your hearing issues. If that’s ruled out, you will have a pure tone hearing exam to test for sensorineural hearing loss. They will also likely perform other tests like blood work and imaging to help identify a cause.
Treatment itself usually involves steroids to reduce inflammation. Additionally, if a cause is found, treating that condition may help with your hearing as well.
What if Hearing Loss Is Permanent?
While the goal of treatment is to prevent any permanent hearing loss, it may still occur. In that case, your audiologist will help you find the right pair of hearing aids to help improve your hearing ability. Hearing aids can help ensure you stay connected to the world and enjoy activities like a coffee date with friends at Sips Espresso Café.
If you are experiencing sudden hearing loss or other hearing issues, call the experts at Georgia Hearing Center at ENT of Athens and schedule an appointment today.