Sudden Hearing Loss

Imagine waking up one morning unable to hear in one or both ears; that is what can happen when you experience sudden hearing loss. It's a frightening experience that can happen to anyone. 

This is the reality for thousands of people who experience sudden hearing loss each year.

What is sudden hearing loss?

  • Sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), is a rapid loss of hearing that occurs without any apparent cause.
  • The primary difference between sudden and gradual hearing loss is the speed at which it occurs. Sudden hearing loss happens within hours or days, while gradual hearing loss occurs over weeks, months, or years.
  • According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), sudden hearing loss affects between 1 and 6 per 5,000 people each year.

Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss

Some common causes of sudden hearing loss in adults include:

  • Viral infections, such as those causing upper respiratory infections or the flu
  • Blood circulation problems that affect the inner ear
  • Head trauma or injuries
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Meniere's disease
  • Tumors, such as acoustic neuromas

Each of these causes can damage the delicate structures in the inner ear, leading to sudden hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sudden Hearing Loss

Common symptoms of sudden hearing loss include:

  • Rapid onset of hearing loss in one or both ears
  • Difficulty understanding speech, even if it's loud enough
  • Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears)
  • Vertigo or dizziness

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to recognize them as potential signs of sudden hearing loss and consult a hearing professional immediately.

Diagnosis of Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss is diagnosed through:

  • A thorough medical history and physical examination
  • Hearing tests, such as pure-tone audiometry, to assess the severity of hearing loss
  • Additional tests, such as blood tests or imaging studies, to identify the underlying cause

Treatment of Sudden Hearing Loss

Treatment options for sudden hearing loss may include medications like corticosteroids, antiviral drugs, or vasodilators to improve blood flow.

Treatment should be initiated as soon as possible, ideally within 72 hours of symptom onset, for the best chance of recovery.

Recovery varies among individuals; some may experience partial or complete restoration of hearing, while others may have permanent hearing loss.

When sudden hearing loss is permanent, you may need a hearing test and hearing aids to help you cope with the loss of your hearing.

Preventing Sudden Hearing Loss

To prevent sudden hearing loss:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet.
  • Avoid exposure to loud noises and use ear protection when necessary.
  • Manage chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Regularly consult a healthcare professional to monitor and address potential risk factors.

Dealing with Sudden Hearing Loss in Massachusetts

Sudden hearing loss is a serious condition that requires immediate attention. If you or a loved one experiences any symptoms of sudden hearing loss, it's essential to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Ken Pruyn at The Hearing Professionals, is a Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist with over 14 years of experience. If you have experienced sudden hearing loss, he can guide you on the best hearing devices to help ease your life.

You can request an appointment online or call us at (508) 794-3620 to arrange an in-office appointment at any of our eight Massachusetts offices: Framingham, Marlborough, Concord, Waltham, Newton, Dedham, Quincy, and Hingham.

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