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

More frequently than we would care to admit, in today’s society, we put off on health care.

Think about people who disregard their own health care so they can get protection for their children. The same goes for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are individuals who are scared of what they could hear so they steer clear of the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

But what action would you take if you needed more than something to deal with a sinus infection or your yearly flu vaccine? If you woke up one morning and had total loss of hearing in one or both ears what would you do then?

There’s a good chance your hearing will never return if you just try to put it off. Hearing experts warn that sudden, temporary hearing loss could progress to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, specifically if the damage is at the nerve level.

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.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than some might believe. As a matter of fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 yearly who experience sudden hearing loss. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would be significantly higher. That means that about 400,000 (or more) Americans could develop sudden loss of hearing every year.

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

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Because the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The unfortunate fact is that only around 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss 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.

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

How do You Handle Sudden Hearing Loss?

In the majority of cases, particularly those where the cause is unknown, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.

The recommended method of treatment has changed since researchers have done more studies on sudden hearing loss and medicine has advanced. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were not able to use oral steroids, this presented a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial backed by the NIDCD discovered that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even getting around the downsides of oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to flow right into the ear. These injections are now a common method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting immediate medical attention is so important is that your doctor may order a group of tests that could diagnose the root issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another threatening condition. These tests can even test your ability to keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging techniques.

New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss Could be on The Horizon

Given the lack of definite information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, continuing research goes deeper into what may be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.

While some aspects of sudden hearing loss continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have proven repeatedly that early treatment improves your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should contact a hearing expert right away.

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