In today’s society, neglecting health care is a scenario that takes place more frequently than we’d like to admit.
Consider the parents who regularly put the needs of their children ahead of their own, ensuring their kids receive proactive and reactive care when needed, but failing to do the same for themselves. The same goes for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to fit in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are individuals 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 annual flu vaccine? What would you do if you woke up one day with unexpected and total hearing loss in one if not both ears?
If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing comes back, chances are it never will. Hearing experts caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss taken care of right away, especially if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.
What is Sudden Hearing Loss?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the people who experience sudden hearing loss–the sudden loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.
Many people would be surprised to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss happens. In fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six people for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD cautions that the amount of undiagnosed cases would cause that figure to swell if you were to include them. That means that around 400,000 (or more) Americans could experience sudden loss of hearing each year.
The term “sudden” is a bit of a misnomer in this instance as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can happen over a few hours or up to three days.
What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?
Due to the fact that the onset can take place over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad truth is that only around 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be determined. Of those that hearing experts can determine, the most common causes include autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.
Your best chance of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment as soon as possible.
How do You Treat Sudden Hearing Loss?
In situations when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the objective is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.
As medicine has modernized and more researchers have done additional studies on sudden hearing loss, the preferred method of treatment has evolved. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this presented a challenge for those who were not able to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects connected 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 side-stepping the drawbacks of oral alternatives by letting 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 prompt medical attention is so crucial is that your doctor might order a group of tests that could diagnose the fundamental issue behind your sudden loss of hearing or another dangerous condition. These tests can even test whether you can keep your balance as well as performing blood-work and several imaging methods.
New Treatments For Sudden Hearing Loss May be on The Horizon
Given the lack of solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research digs deeper into what could be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.
Researchers have shown that even though they might not have all the answers concerning sudden hearing loss, your chances of getting your hearing back is improved by getting early treatment. If you have hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should contact a hearing expert right away.