Posted on Monday, March 04, 2013

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) is an unexpected loss of most or all hearing in one or both ears occurring within 3 days or less. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is considered an emergency, and those experiencing it should call a hearing health provider immediately. Unfortunately, the tendency with sudden sensorineural hearing loss is to delay, thinking it will clear up on its own. Waiting to treat SSHL often results in permanent hearing loss.

Recent plane travel, trauma to the ear or other physical causes like sneezing are overt signs of sudden hearing loss, but sudden hearing loss doesn’t always have an obvious cause. When sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs without pain, it can seem even less like an emergency. In a Washington Post interview about his SSHL, Wayne Curtis, stated, "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."

The sudden loss of hearing can be similar to a clogged feeling in the ears, so people mistakingly believe it to be temporary.

Waking up to find your hearing altered would seem an immediate reason to call a hearing health professional, but people who have suffered from allergies or have had the stuffed middle ear feeling often dismiss the problem. 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 deficit interfering with a musical performance. This decision saved his hearing, because when it comes to sudden hearing loss there is a limited time before permanent mild to profound hearing loss sets in.

It’s best to seek help for sudden hearing loss within 24-48 hours to regain full hearing.

The time limit on getting help for sudden hearing loss is what the Center for Hearing Loss Help defines as the golden hour. This term is to spur people toward immediate action, it’s not actually an hour. It is, however, best for a person to seek help within 24-48 hours to regain full hearing. There are very few examples of patients treated a few weeks after the incident regaining partial to full hearing, but even if you have passed that golden hour there is a chance of saving your hearing if you see the appropriate medical professional.

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

Family doctors can have limited experience with sudden sensorineural hearing loss, so the potential for incorrect treatment is higher. The reason many family doctors aren’t equipped to deal with sudden hearing loss is that it isn’t terribly common. The online resource Medscape says, “Estimates of the annual incidence of sudden sensory hearing loss range from 5-20 cases per 100,000 persons.” In addition, only ten percent of the causes for SSHL are ever identified.

There are numerous reasons to see an audiologist, including annual visits to preserve hearing, but sudden sensorineural hearing loss is the clearest. With sudden sensorineural hearing loss, there is a limited time that a person has in order to get treatment and protect their hearing. An audiologist is more likely to know about the advances in dealing with sudden hearing loss as well. Including the most recent an injection to help combat sudden hearing loss. You can see a video on this procedure HERE

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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