Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treatment Information
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) is a rapid loss in hearing, or sudden deafness. This can occur instantaneously or over a 3-day period. A 30-decibel drop in 3 frequencies or more occurring in one or both ears will generally determine if a person has experienced SSHL; however in most cases it will occur in one ear only. It is considered to be “idiopathic” if the causes is unknown and it happens spontaneously.
It should be treated as quite serious, and a person who thinks they are affected by it should immediately consult a health professional. SSHL can be treated in a majority of cases, with most if not all hearing restored1.
In most cases there is no diagnosis for SSHL – in fact, less than 15% of patients ever find out what caused their ailment, and if they do find out, it’s usually linked back to something in a patient’s medical history.
There has been some postulation that SSHL occurs for two reasons: viral infection or a blood vessel problem. As it’s a condition that little is still known about, both theories are still only that. This can make it difficult to treat in some cases. SSHL causes damage or impairment to the inner ear.
For the sufferers who have had a diagnosis of their particular case, their SSHL has been linked to:
- Ototoxic drugs
- Meniere’s disease
- Abnormal tissue development
- Circulatory disorders
While in some cases a cause for SSHL can be determined, it appears that the vast majority of people won’t know why it will happen to them. It can come as quite a shock to someone who has never experienced hearing loss before – in fact it can be extremely stressful. The key reason to seek medical advice immediately is to minimize any potential long-term damage and to give the patient the best chance of recovering their hearing.
What to do
Most people report noticing the problem when they wake up in the morning or try to use the specific ear for a localized task: ie listening into a telephone. Often people will notice a loud popping noise that heralds the hearing loss. It is quite often accompanied by tinnitus and dizziness.
The guidelines to follow if you think you’ve experienced SSHL is to immediately seek medical advice and to get a hearing test done. While many people prefer to wait out a particular ailment to determine whether it’s serious enough to go to a doctor or not, it’s not a good strategy to do with the ear. A sore elbow might come right after a few days, for instance, but loss of hearing has the risk of being permanent.
Treatment is extremely important with SSHL as it can mean the difference between the full restoration of hearing and deafness. As such, it’s not worth the risk of ‘waiting it out’. The ear is a delicate mechanism, and if damaged, is often permanent.
A doctor will be able to determine if you have SSHL and to what severity. They might also be able to diagnose what caused it. In some cases, it may be quite clear: barotrauma (sudden change in pressure that can damage the ear) or physical trauma, among other things. The hearing test will measure your ability to distinguish between frequencies and to what decibel you can detect them.
Should it be discovered that you are suffering from SSHL, there are a number of treatment options available. If an underlying cause has been found to have brought on the hearing loss, treatment may begin for that (or, if you are currently receiving treatment for something, it may be ceased if it is causing SSHL to occur). Obviously the cause of SSHL will be addressed before the doctor moves onto specified therapy.
The most common treatment for SSHL in a patient with an unknown cause is therapy with steroids. In this case, it will help reduce inflammation and swelling. Steroids can also boost the immune system in fighting off illness, which can aid in the recovery of the ear condition.
Some patients also find improvement after inhaling carbogen (a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen). While it can take longer to treat than other therapies, research has shown that improving blood flow and air within the ear prevents SSHL from occurring.
It must also be added that as SSHL has the added challenge of being difficult to diagnose, it’s not always easy to find a solution to an unknown problem. Complexity in causes can also result in complexity of diagnosis. This makes it difficult to find therapy that works at times.
Recovery times and amounts can vary greatly. Not all cases of SSHL are reported or even treated. Some people consider the problem something temporary and see some recovery within days. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with swimming experience, such as surfers, consider ear complaints as a temporary thing – such as water in the ear – and as such only need to wait it out.
Some people will see recovery and results within two weeks. Recovery can depend on whether medical treatment was sought and whether the body responded to treatment. The majority of cases recover from SSHL, however not all cases report a full return of hearing faculties. There is also the chance that a slow degradation of hearing might in the affected ear.
Any suspected problem with the senses should be checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible. Hearing loss is a serious concern and can greatly affect a sufferer’s life. In most cases, a simple hearing test will be able to determine the cause of the change in hearing.
SSHL can come as quite a shock to a person. After all, it’s not every day one wakes to discover that their ability to hear has been compromised. Even though it is difficult to diagnose, SSHL in most cases can be helped through therapy, provided medical advice is quickly sought. So if it happens to you, don’t risk the sound being turned down permanently.
If you would like to learn more about sudden sensorineural hearing loss treatment options, please visit our homepage to learn about The Hearing Loss Pill, an oral hearing loss treatment designed to help optimize the nerves of the inner ear to promote optimal ear health, or visit our hearing loss treatment page to see other available options.
Q: Will I know immediately if I’ve experienced SSHL?
A: Maybe. Sometimes SSHL can occur all at once, or it can set in over the course of up to 3 days.
Q: How can be sure that I have SSHL?
A: A doctor can test for Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss by administering a standard hearing test.
Reference: UTMB Health