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

More frequently than we would care to admit, in our modern day society, we put off on health care.

Consider people who neglect their own health care so they can get protection for their children. 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 are afraid of what they could hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than simply this year’s preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? What would you do if you woke up one morning with unexpected and complete hearing loss in one or both ears?

If your answer is just to wait it out until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing professionals caution that if you don’t get sudden temporary hearing loss treated immediately, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it may become permanent.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than some might believe. In fact, 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 go up significantly. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans may develop sudden hearing loss every year.

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

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Doctors are frequently unable to figure out the cause as it occurs over hours or even days. The sad reality is that pinpointing a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. exposure to certain drugs, blood pressure problems, neurological disorders, infections, disorders of the inner ear and head trauma are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

As stated, getting treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance of recovering at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In cases when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has modernized and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the preferred method of treatment has evolved. Pill form is how these steroids were historically prescribed, but this presented a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects linked to the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as reliable as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even side-stepping the downsides to oral alternatives by permitting the medication to flow straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

Another reason why getting prompt medical care is so important is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests could include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

We Might be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Researchers continue to work on the problem but truthfully, there is a lack of solid facts about the cause of sudden hearing loss. New developments with infusing drugs into tiny microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

While some aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have proven over and over that early treatment improves your chances of restoring the hearing you’ve lost. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should get in touch with a hearing specialist immediately.

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