Sudden sensorineural hearing loss or sudden deafness is a rapid loss of hearing that can occur over a period of days, hours or even seconds. It usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 60 and affects women and men fairly equally. Here are five things you need to know about this serious condition.
1. Sudden hearing loss should be treated as a medical emergency.
It can be difficult to determine whether a sudden loss in hearing is a serious threat to your long term hearing health (sensorineural) or merely a symptom of a cold or allergy (conductive). However, the longer you wait to treat sudden hearing loss, the more you risk permanently losing your hearing. 80 percent of patients show improvement in their hearing or have their hearing return to normal if treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss is started within the first two weeks. Although there is a two week window to effectively treat this condition, audiologists recommend seeking medical treatment immediately and highlight the first 72 hours as the most crucial time to seek treatment for sudden hearing loss.
2. Sudden hearing loss is usually unilateral.
Because sudden hearing loss usually affects one ear, the humming test can help determine whether your hearing loss is cause for immediate concern. Hum out loud and determine which ear hears the voice louder. If you hear the voice louder in the good ear, you may have sudden sensorineural hearing loss; you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
3. About half of hearing loss sufferers experience symptoms of dizziness, vertigo or some other form of imbalance.
Our balance is controlled through signals sent from our eyes, ears and sensory systems in our body to our brains. Balance helps us move without getting dizzy and falling. Because sudden hearing loss disrupts the signals sent through our ears, some hearing loss sufferers may experiences feelings of dizziness, vertigo and imbalance.
4. There is no official cause of sudden hearing loss.
There is no definite cause of sudden hearing loss, but ear infections, head injuries, some drugs and some diseases have been linked to sudden hearing loss. Only 10-15% of people who have sudden hearing loss have an identifiable cause.
5. Most general practitioners are not trained to identify and treat sudden hearing loss.
Some doctors may recommend waiting to see if your hearing loss goes away on its own, but general practitioners are not trained to identify and treat sudden hearing loss. You will need a referral from your doctor to see an otolaryngologist or ENT specialist who is qualified to make a proper diagnoses of your condition. Alternatively, you can visit your nearest emergency room if you are unable to obtain a referral.
Delaying treatment is one of the biggest mistakes that people with sudden hearing loss make and can result in a permanent loss in hearing. Be sure to seek medical help if you suspect you have sudden hearing loss.