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

In today’s society, neglecting health care is a scenario that takes place more often than we’d like to acknowledge.

Think of the parents who consistently put the needs of their children ahead of their own, ensuring their sons and daughters receive proactive and reactive care when required, but failing to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are people who live by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what action would you take if you required more than something to get rid of a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? If you woke up one day and had total loss of hearing in one if not both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good chance your hearing will not ever return if you just attempt to wait it out. Hearing specialists 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.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the people 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 shocked to know how frequently sudden hearing loss happens. Actually, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD warns that the number of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to go up if you were to include them. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss can actually occur over a few hours or days so the term is a bit of a misnomer.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Due to the fact that the onset can occur over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to learn what’s behind the cause for most cases. The unfortunate fact is that determining a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Of those that hearing experts 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 possibility of recovering at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In situations when the cause is not known and in most other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Decreasing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have done additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has evolved. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this presented a challenge for those who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects connected with the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial established by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids into the eardrum was just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the drawbacks of oral alternatives by allowing the medicine to go directly into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

Another reason why getting immediate medical care is so crucial is that your doctor may order a group of tests that could diagnose the root issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another dangerous condition. These tests can even check whether you can keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging methods.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Researchers continue to work on the problem but honestly, there is a lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden hearing loss. New advancements with infusing drugs into little microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

While some aspects of sudden hearing loss are still a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should contact a hearing expert right away.

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