A sudden loss in hearing is a medical emergency. Individuals who experience a sudden hearing loss should seek medical attention immediately. Delay in treatment of a sudden hearing loss can greatly impact the effectiveness of treatment options.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a rapid change in hearing, typically in one ear occurring at once or over a couple of days. Often times, patients describe associated symptoms of ringing, fullness, and/or dizziness in the ear.
Diagnosis of a sudden hearing loss follows a comprehensive exam of the effected ear by an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) and completion of a comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Additional testing may follow to localize the cause of the sudden hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about 10-15% of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have an identifiable cause. Some of the possible causes are infection, trauma, autoimmune diseases, ototoxic medications, circulation problems, tumor, neurologic diseases, and Meniere’s disease.
The most common treatment option for sudden sensorineural hearing loss is the use of corticosteroids in either pill form or by direct injection into the middle ear. Treatment options will be determined by the otolaryngologist based on the exam and hearing test results.
If you are experiencing a sudden loss in hearing, contact your physician immediately.