Sudden onset hearing loss or sudden deafness is a rapid loss of hearing in one or both ears, or the hearing nerve. This sudden loss in hearing occurs over a period of hours, up to three days. This causes a noticeable difference in the perception of most sounds, although, it occurs with varying severity for everyone.
The exact incidence of sudden onset hearing loss is uncertain since some cases recover spontaneously and many people do not seek medical attention. Although, it is estimated that this phenomenon effects approximately 1 out of 5000 adults each year. This effects men and women equally and most commonly effects people aged 40 to 50 years old.
The cause of this hearing loss is often diagnosed as idiopathic meaning it is “not sure why” this hearing loss has occurred and there is no known cause. For some individuals, this hearing loss may be caused by factors such as viral infections or bacterial infections. Other causes of this sudden hearing loss include neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, some drugs taken at high doses, and tumours.
This phenomenon can also cause a perception of a ringing or buzzing noise called tinnitus that you can hear but no one else can. The sudden hearing loss can also cause imbalance, dizziness, fullness in the ear, nausea, vomiting and anxiety. It is not surprising if you find it difficult to hear during this time, particularly in noisy places. If the hearing loss is only in one ear, this may cause you to feel disorientated, frustrated and overly fatigued from concentrating on sounds.
It is very common that people notice this problem when they wake up in the morning and notice their hearing is different to the day before. When this hearing loss occurs in one ear only, people may not notice until they put earphones in their ears and notice that one ear sounds duller than the other, even when the earphones are switched. Another time this hearing loss in one ear becomes obvious, is when you hold the phone up to one ear and notice it is not as clear compared to the other ear.
A hearing test needs to be completely immediately so that these accurate and comprehensive test results can be taken to your GP to prescribe the correct medication. The tests conducted are used to measure the hearing loss and assess if this is a sudden onset hearing loss. From here, often GPs will prescribe a high-dose course of oral steroids called prednisone and recommend that you take them for approximately 2 weeks. Steroids can also be given through an injection behind the eardrum in order to reduce inflammation in the body and treat the sudden hearing loss. This phenomenon can cause a permanent hearing loss if treatment is not provided promptly. Many individuals do not seek immediate treatment and assume they are experiencing sensations such as allergies, earwax blockage or a sinus infection. Other tests such as blood tests and MRIs can also be conducted to help identify for the cause of this hearing loss. It has been found that 85% of those who receive prompt medical treatment within 7 days of the hearing loss or tinnitus starting, regain some or all of their hearing.
If you or a loved one experiences a sudden reduction in your hearing, the first step is to make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional immediately at a clinic like EAR STUDIO. This hearing loss should be taken seriously because the sooner you seek investigation and treatment, the greater your chances are for a full recovery. It is important to keep in mind that if a hearing clinic or your local GP is closed at the time you notice this hearing loss, go to the emergency department of your local hospital and you can be treated there. Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency. If you experience a sudden onset hearing loss, do not ignore it and hope that it will go away on its own.
At EAR STUDIO, we offer a comprehensive hearing assessment that can assess all parts of the hearing and understanding process. This is important in evaluating with the individual what impact their hearing is having on their life.