An unexplained and rapid loss of hearing is known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), or more commonly as sudden deafness. This condition is often frightening but can be treated if caught in time. Understanding the causes of sudden deafness can ensure you seek help quickly.
Understanding Sudden Deafness
About one to five out of every 5,000 Americans experience sudden deafness each year. Some estimate this number is higher because many cases go undiagnosed. While people of all ages can experience this condition, it commonly affects those in their late 40s and early 50s.
Those with sudden deafness report waking up with hearing loss or hearing a “pop” before their hearing disappears. SSHL usually only affects one ear. In addition to a loss of hearing, symptoms include dizziness, tinnitus and a feeling of fullness in the ear.
Experts recommend treating sudden deafness as a medical emergency and seeking treatment quickly to prevent permanent damage.
Causes of SSHL
With so many possibilities for sudden deafness causes, only about 10% of those diagnosed with the condition can determine the reason for their loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), conditions that cause sudden deafness include:
- Head trauma
- Autoimmune diseases
- Exposure to ototoxic drugs
- Blood circulation problems
- Neurological disorders
- Disorders of the inner ear
An obstruction in the ear, such as impacted earwax or a buildup of fluid, is considered conductive hearing loss and is not a recognized cause of SSHL.
Diagnosis & Treatment
You should visit your doctor within a few days of experiencing sudden deafness. They will examine your ear and conduct pure tone audiometry to measure how loud different sounds at a variety of pitches need to be in order for you to hear them. This is important information, as a sign of sudden deafness is a loss of 30 decibels in three connected frequencies within 72 hours. To put this in perspective, conversational speech would sound like a whisper to those with this disorder.
Blood tests, imaging and balance tests may also be ordered to determine the cause of your sudden deafness.
Most cases of sudden deafness are treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling. Steroids can also help your body fight off infections. If your hearing loss does not resolve, your audiologist may recommend hearing aids or cochlear implants.
To learn more about sudden deafness or to schedule an appointment with an experienced audiologist, contact Hearing Center of Lake Charles today.