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

More often than we would like to admit, in today’s society, we put off on health care.

Consider people who neglect their own health care so they can get protection for their children. You can say the same for the working professional who won’t 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 stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you required more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one morning with unexpected and complete hearing loss in one if not both ears?

If your answer is to just ignore it until your hearing comes back, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, peculiarly if it’s at the nerve level, it could 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 sudden loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Many people would be surprised to know how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. Actually, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden loss of hearing.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are frequently not able to find the cause because it occurs over hours or even days. The unfortunate reality is that only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be determined. Of those that hearing specialists can pinpoint, 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.

Your best chance of getting back at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?

In most cases, particularly those where the cause is unknown, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid usage.

The recommended means of treatment has evolved since researchers have conducted more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has advanced. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were unable to use oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD discovered that an injection of steroids through the eardrum was just as reliable as oral steroids, even side-stepping the drawbacks of oral alternatives by enabling the medication to flow directly into the ear. These injections are now a common method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting prompt medical care is so important is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the fundamental issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another dangerous condition. These tests can even determine your ability to keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

Given the lack of definite information about the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research goes deeper into what could be the cause. New developments with infusing drugs into tiny microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what may be a safer way.

While some factors of sudden loss of hearing remain a mystery, researchers and medical experts have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. Make an appointment with a hearing expert if you have hearing loss of any kind.

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