Home page

Sudden Hearing Loss Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

When a person suddenly loses their hearing, it is very frightening. Sudden hearing loss is truly a medical emergency that needs to be tended to. The person should be seen as soon as possible by their family doctor or at an urgent care center. Immediate evaluation by a trained physician can result in an easier and more rapid recovery.

What Is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Sudden hearing loss is medically known as sensorineural hearing loss. This is distinctly noted as a reduction of 30 or more decibels of hearing capacity within a 72 hour period. Approximately 4000 cases of sensorineural hearing loss occur each year in the United States alone. Patients of both genders appear to be equally affected.

Symptoms of Sudden Hearing Loss

The symptoms associated with the sudden loss of hearing vary in accordance with the circumstances in which the hearing loss occurred. Symptoms can include:

  • a sense of fullness within the ear
  • ringing in the ears
  • inability to understand speech
  • awareness that your electronic equipment has to be played at a higher volume than usual
  • a merging of sounds that you are unable distinguish
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is very important to follow up immediately with a doctor. Causes and Theories Pertaining to Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The basis for sensorineural hearing loss has an unusually diverse set of parameters. Some theories indicate that this type of hearing loss could be caused by neurological, autoimmune or vascular disorders. Other theories that have been presented include viruses, bacterial infections, trauma and even toxicity. There is also the argument that some cases of sudden hearing loss are idiopathic, meaning that the cause is not known.

Commonly Used and Potential Treatments for Sudden Loss of Hearing

Proceeding with caution on the assumption that an autoimmune disorder is the root cause of the hearing loss, physicians often treat sudden hearing loss with the use of a systemic steroid. Unfortunately, some people are not able to take steroids due to other existing medical conditions. Then there is also the argument that steroids make little to no difference in either the recovery time or the likelihood of recovery in the patient. For these types of situations, other methods have been used. These treatments include the use of hyperbaric oxygen and antiviral medicines.

Spontaneous Recovery from Hearing Loss

The alternate course of treatment is the "wait and see" approach. This is not something that should be done unless advised by a qualified physician. Sometimes patients will experience spontaneous recovery after a case of sudden hearing loss. In fact, for patients between the ages of 15 and 65, spontaneous recovery is seen approximately 53% of the time. This approach is only taken under the care and guidance of a professional M.D.

If you think that you are noticing a reduction in your hearing, you need to make an appointment to have your hearing checked. If the reduction comes on suddenly or strongly, you should go to the urgent care center or emergency room for an immediate evaluation of your condition. This is a situation that must be taken seriously. Treatment could make the difference between a life of sound and a life of silence.