In our modern society, neglecting health care is a scenario that occurs more often than we’d like to admit.
Think about people who disregard their own health care so they can get protection for their children. How about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy going to meetings. Then there are those who are afraid of what they might hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.
But what would you do if you needed more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with sudden and total hearing loss in one if not both ears?
If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing comes back, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing specialists caution that abrupt, temporary hearing loss could advance to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, especially if the damage is at the nerve level.
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.
Many people would be surprised to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss happens. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were taken into consideration, that number would go up significantly. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could develop sudden loss of hearing every year.
The term “sudden” is somewhat of a misnomer in this case as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can take place over a few 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 usually not able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad reality is that determining a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialists can pinpoint.
Your best chance of recovering at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.
How do You Handle Sudden Hearing Loss?
In many cases, specifically those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the goal is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.
As medicine has advanced and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for individuals who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects associated with the medication.
An injection of steroids through the eardrum was as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even allowing the medication to flow directly into the inner ear, without the disadvantage of the oral alternatives. These injections are now a normal approach to treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.
Another reason why seeking immediate medical care is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the root problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests can even examine whether you can keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.
We Could be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss
Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, ongoing research goes deeper into what could be the cause. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.
While many factors of sudden hearing loss remain a mystery, researchers and medical specialists have shown over and over that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should get in touch with a hearing professional right away.