If one day you awoke to discover that you had lost vision in one eye, would you not immediately go to the emergency room? Why then if you lost your hearing suddenly in one or both ears would you not seek help just as quickly. Today we are going to discuss some important facts about sudden hearing loss and what to do if you or a loved one experiences a sudden loss of hearing.
Identifying a sudden hearing loss may not be easy. Symptoms can present as: muffled hearing in one of both ears, a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear, and an onset of recent tinnitus in one or both ears that is followed by a gradual decrease in hearing. These are just some of the common presentations, but if there is any question that your hearing may have changed suddenly, it is important to go to the ENT or audiologist right away.
Common Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss:
- Blood Circulation
- Inner Ear Disease
- Head Trauma
- Unknown Cause (Idiopathic)
As you can see there are a number of reasons why a person may lose some or all of their hearing suddenly, too often a loss of hearing is dismissed for days or weeks before seeking medical attention. This is due to the common misconception that it is simply impacted ear wax or nasal congestion. While this may be the case, it is crucial that a medical professional make that distinction for you. In cases of Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss time is your enemy- the window of opportunity to recover some or all of your hearing is directly related to the time a patient presents to the ENT.
Here are some recommendations of what to do in the case of a sudden change in hearing:
- Go directly to an Audiologist or ENT physician (within hours of noticing the change is optimal)
- Get your hearing tested and seek medical treatment
- If your hearing loss is accompanied by other symptoms such as: Headache, Vertigo, Dizziness or Imbalance your first point of medical contact may be the emergency room. It is important for you or a loved one to note the sudden change in hearing and to request a hearing test or ENT consult right away. Emergency Room personnel are often not trained to identify sudden hearing loss and therefore it will not be a top priority to evaluate your hearing. It is your responsibility to make the concern for your hearing clear.
It is so important to address a sudden hearing loss early, because treatment options will be limited as time passes.
Treatment Options Include:
- Systematic Steroids (most effective within 24 hours and up to 72 hours)
- Antiviral Mediations (most effective within 72 hours)
- Intratympanic Steroid Injection (can be effective within 1 week of incident)
Treatment for residual hearing loss, after a primary course of medical treatment, can include hearing aids or a CROS device depending on the degree of hearing loss. After primary medical treatment has concluded, please contact your nearest audiologist to help with remediating your communication difficulties and you can come up with the best solution for you, together.