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

In our modern society, delaying health care is a situation that takes place more often than we’d like to admit.

Think of the parents who continually put the needs of their children before of their own, ensuring their kids receive proactive and reactive care when necessary, but neglecting to do the same for themselves. How about professionals who can’t squeeze in a doctor’s appointment because they are to busy with meetings. Then there are those who are frightened of what they could hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than something to fight off a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one morning with unexpected and complete hearing loss in one or both ears?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing experts warn that sudden, temporary loss of hearing might progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, particularly if the damage is at the nerve level.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

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 frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were taken into consideration, that number would be significantly higher. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden loss of hearing.

Sudden hearing loss can actually happen over several hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Due to the fact that the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what causes most cases. The sad truth is that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden loss of hearing have a cause that can be identified. 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 specialist can pinpoint.

Your best possibility of getting back at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In many cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. Minimizing the swelling and reducing inflammation is the goal as with all steroid use.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have conducted additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has changed. Pill form is how these steroids were classically prescribed, but this was a challenge for people who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were leery of the side effects linked to the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial established by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even allowing the medication to go directly into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral alternatives. These injections have now become a common method of 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 may order a group of tests that could diagnose the root problem behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon

Given the lack of solid information about the cause of sudden hearing loss, continuing 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 some factors of sudden hearing loss remain a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown over and over that early treatment improves your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing specialist if you have hearing loss of any type.

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