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

More frequently than we would like to admit, in today’s society, we neglect health care.

Think about people who ignore their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. How about professionals who won’t fit in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are individuals who are frightened of what they could hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu vaccine or something to get rid of a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and total loss of hearing in one if not both ears?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever come back if you just try to put it off. Hearing specialists caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of immediately, peculiarly if it’s at the nerve level, it might become permanent.

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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than some might believe. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. With that being said, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to go up if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden hearing loss every year.

The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misnomer in this case as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can occur over a few hours or up to three days.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Because the onset can take place over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what causes most cases. The unfortunate reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Out of those cases 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.

Your best possibility of getting back at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

The recommended means of treatment has changed since researchers have conducted more studies on sudden hearing loss and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for individuals who were leery of the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

An injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the downsides of oral alternatives by letting the medicine to go directly into the ear. These injections have now become a common approach to treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting immediate medical care is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group 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 methods of imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

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

Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, ongoing research goes deeper into what may be the cause. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new advancement of infusing the drug into microspheres.

While some aspects of sudden loss of hearing are still a mystery, researchers and medical experts have proven over and over that early treatment improves your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing specialist if you have hearing loss of any type.