More often than we would like to admit, in our modern day society, we neglect health care.
Consider the parents who consistently put the needs of their children in front of their own, ensuring their sons and daughters get proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who abide by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.
But what action would you take if you needed more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? If you woke up one day and had total hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?
If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated immediately, especially 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 people 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 shocked to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. Actually, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to go up if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could experience sudden hearing loss each year.
The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misconception in this instance as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can take place over several hours or up to three days.
What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?
Because the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to learn what causes most cases. The unfortunate truth is that only around 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be determined. Out of those cases that hearing professionals 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 start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance to recover at least some of your normal function.
Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?
In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.
The recommended means of treatment has evolved since researchers have done more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has modernized. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to take oral steroids, this offered a challenge.
An injection of steroids into the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even enabling the medication to flow straight into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral alternatives. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.
Another reason why seeking prompt medical care is so important is that your doctor might order a panel of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests can even check whether you can keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging techniques.
We May be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss
Given the lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, ongoing research goes deeper into what could be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new advancement of infusing the drug into microspheres.
While many aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown repeatedly that early treatment improves your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing specialist if you are experiencing hearing loss of any kind.