Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Fireworks can cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

Most of the time people are born with hearing loss or they develop it over time, but sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) happens all at once and often without any pain at all. This unexpected loss of hearing can happen in one or both ears and is considered an emergency. The tendency with sudden hearing loss is to wait and see if it clears up, but waiting to treat SSHL often results in permanent hearing loss.

Trauma to the ear, recent plane travel, or other physical causes like sneezing are just some of the ways that sudden sensorineural hearing loss happens. But sudden hearing loss doesn’t always have a direct link to physical pain and suffering. If it occurs without pain, it can seem less like the emergency and more like a temporary problem. As Wayne Curtis stated when interviewed for his sudden hearing loss, "I had always assumed that something as serious as losing your hearing would be accompanied by pain like an earache or damage….This was just so out of the blue."

Curtis woke up and discovered he was almost completely deaf in his left ear.

According to the Washington Post's article on Curtis, “patients suffer permanent deafness as a result of delays in diagnosis and treatment..." In Curtis' case he had suffered from allergies for years and would not have gone to the doctor if he wasn't worried about the clogged feeling interfering with a musical performance. This decision saved his hearing. As the Post points out, "Unlike conductive hearing loss, which affects the outer ear, sudden sensorieneural hearing loss is an urgent medical problem that can range in severity from mild to profound.”

Many times people with sudden sensorineural hearing loss never realize there is a limited amount of time to seek help.

The time limit to get help for sudden sensorineural hearing loss is what the Center for Hearing Loss Help defines as the “golden hour”. It’s not actually an hour. In fact, it’s best for a person to seek help within 24-48 hours to regain full hearing. However, there are examples of patients treated a few weeks after the incident regaining partial to full hearing, so even if you have passed that golden hour, don’t despair, get to a hearing health professional.

It is imperative to consult a hearing health professional when faced with sudden hearing loss.

Often a family doctor has limited experience with sudden sensorineural hearing loss and will give incorrect treatment or dismiss the patient entirely. The reason many family doctors aren’t equipped to deal with SSHL is that it isn’t terribly common. The online resource Medscape says, “Estimates of the annual incidence of sudden sensorineural hearing loss range from 5-20 cases per 100,000 persons.” The causes of this mysterious condition aren’t widely known either. In fact, only ten percent of the reasons for SSHL are ever identified.

There are many important reasons to see a hearing health professional, including annual visits to preserve hearing, but SSHL is one of the clearest because of the time limit on treatment. A hearing health professional is more likely to know about the advances in dealing with sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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