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

In today’s society, putting off health care is a scenario that takes place 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. What about professionals who won’t fit in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are those who live by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they could hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu shot or something to get rid of a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had complete hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated immediately, particularly 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 rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Many people would be shocked to know how often sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden hearing loss. That said, the NIDCD cautions that the quantity of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden loss of hearing.

The term “sudden” is a bit 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?

Doctors are usually unable to determine the cause because it comes on over hours or even days. The unfortunate truth is that pinpointing a cause is possible in just about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing. Of those that hearing professionals can pinpoint, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

As stated, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the onset of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance to recover at least some of your normal function.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In the majority of cases, especially those where the cause is not known, the normal course of treatment involves corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have carried out additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the recommended method of treatment has evolved. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for those who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects associated with the medication.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even getting around the drawbacks to oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to flow right into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

Another reason why getting immediate medical care is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests can even check whether you can keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging methods.

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

Researchers continue to work on the problem but honestly, there’s a lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden hearing loss. New advancements with infusing drugs into small microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what might be a safer way.

Researchers have proven that even though they may not have all the answers concerning sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is increased by getting early treatment. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either gradual or sudden, you should get in touch with a hearing expert right away.