Understanding Sudden Hearing Loss

Most cases of acquired hearing loss in adults appear gradually, over a stretch of time. It takes an average of seven years for someone to fully experience the changes in their hearing and decide to seek treatment. Hearing specialists do recommend annual hearing tests from the age of 50 onward, which allows you to keep track of your hearing abilities and seek treatment if a hearing loss does appear.

There are instances, however, where hearing loss may occur suddenly. Indeed, this can be a worrying occurrence, and it could point to a number of other medical issues. Here, we take a look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

What is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the common types of hearing loss. This form of hearing loss appears when the hair cells of your inner ear are damaged. Since they do not generate, damage to these cells are permanent. These sensitive hair cells are responsible for translating vibrations from sound waves into neural signals that your brain will recognize as sound. With sensorineural hearing loss, there is a breakdown in the auditory process between your inner ear and your brain.

While most cases of sensorineural hearing loss appear gradually over a period of time, sudden sensorineural hearing loss does just what its name describes: it appears suddenly. With sudden sensorineural hearing loss, you may experience very quick changes in your hearing over the course of a few days.

According to Heathline, there are “4,000 cases of sudden sensorineural hearing loss diagnosed every year in the United States. The condition most commonly affects people between ages 30 and 60. About 50 percent of people with unilateral sudden sensorineural hearing loss (only one ear is affected) recover within two weeks if they get prompt treatment. About 15 percent of people with the condition have hearing loss that gradually gets worse over time.”

If you have experienced sudden changes in your hearing, it is crucial to visit a doctor right away. It is also important to keep in mind that seeking immediate treatment could help save your hearing.

Signs of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss typically appears in one ear (unilateral hearing loss). It is a very noticeable condition, especially if it appears in just one ear. According to Heathline, signs of sudden sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty with phones or headphones on the affected ear or both ears
  • A sudden loud popping sound and then muffled sound
  • Trouble following group conversations
  • Muffled conversations
  • Inability to hear against background noise
  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Tinnitus (a ringing of the ear)

Causes of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

As with regular sensorineural hearing loss, it may be difficult to pin down just one single cause. According to Heathline, the damage to inner ear hair cells may be caused by any number of things, including:

  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Head injury or trauma
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise
  • Neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis
  • Diseases such as Meniere’s, Lyme, and Cogan
  • Ototoxic medication
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Abnormal tissue growths or tumors
  • Blood vessel conditions
  • Aging

Treatment Options for Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, it is important to visit a medical provider immediately. Most commonly, treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss is the prescription of steroids, which help reduce inflammation and swelling and could encourage more blood flow to the inner ear area. Antibiotics are prescribed if an infection is present and causing the hearing loss.  A study found that “54.5 percent of people with sudden sensorineural hearing loss showed at least partial recovery in the first 10 days of treatment.”

Hearing Health at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center

Hearing loss can occur to people of all ages, and it is important to pay attention to the signs. If you have noticed changes in your hearing, the first step is to take a hearing test. Hearing tests are painless and simple, and they will provide you with a clear visual of your hearing abilities. At Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will work with you to find the best solution for your hearing needs.