Many types of hearing loss happen gradually over a period of months or years. Sometimes, hearing loss can occur suddenly without any warning. Sudden hearing loss often affects one ear and may be accompanied by tinnitus and/or vertigo. When hearing loss occurs suddenly, it is critical to receive treatment ASAP. Sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency due to the time sensitive nature of receiving treatment to restore hearing sensitivity.
According to the Clinical Practice Guideline for Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects 5 to 27 per 100,000 people annually (about 66,000 each year in the United States). Sudden sensorineural hearing losses are often idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Only 10-15% of individuals who experience a sudden hearing loss have had the cause diagnosed. Some risk factors or causes have been identified as:
-Infection (bacterial or viral)
-Inner ear disorders
Although the cause of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss may not be known, treatment of the loss is still possible. The Clinical Practice Guideline for Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery recommends the following:
-Audiometric evaluation within 14 days of symptom onset to confirm the diagnosis
-Oral and/or intratrympanic steroid therapy within 14 days of symptom onset
-MRI to rule out retrocochlear pathologies
Patients may recover some hearing within the first two weeks–the degree of recovery varies greatly patient to patient. Although there is limited evidence-based data, early intervention and treatment often results in greater recovery of hearing sensitivity.
If you or someone you know experiences a sudden hearing loss, please call our office at 904-399-0350 as soon as possible.