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

More frequently than we would like to admit, in our modern day society, we put off on health care.

Think of the parents who regularly put the needs of their children before of their own, making sure their kids obtain proactive and reactive care when needed, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who are afraid of what they might hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had total loss of hearing in one if not both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good possibility your hearing will never return if you just attempt to put it off. Hearing experts warn that abrupt, temporary loss of hearing might progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, especially 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 individuals who experience sudden hearing loss–the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Many people would be surprised to find out how often sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to go up if you were to include them. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden hearing loss.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are frequently unable to figure out the cause because it happens over hours or even days. The sad reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Out of those cases that hearing specialists can determine, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

As mentioned, getting treatment as soon as possible after the onset of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance of recovering at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the preferred method of treatment has changed. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was 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.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even enabling the medication to flow right into the inner ear, without the drawback of the oral options. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that might diagnose the root problem causing your sudden hearing loss can be set up by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is important. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even a test of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the issue but frankly, there’s a lack of solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new advancement of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have shown that even though they might not have all the answers regarding sudden loss of hearing, your chances of getting your hearing back is increased by seeking early treatment. Contact a hearing expert if you are experiencing hearing loss of any type.