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Image of someone going to ER to treat sudden hearing loss.

More often than we would care to admit, in today’s society, we put off on health care.

Consider the parents who regularly put the needs of their children before of their own, making certain their kids receive proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. You can say the same for the working professional who won’t cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who are frightened of what they could hear so they avoid the doctor’s office preferring to stay ignorant.

But what would you do if you needed more than just your annual preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had complete hearing loss in one if not both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing comes back, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing professionals warn that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it could become permanent.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the people who experience sudden hearing loss–the sudden loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to happen than is commonly recognized. In fact, studies estimate that there are between one and six individuals for every 5,000 each year who experience sudden hearing loss. Having said that, the NIDCD cautions that the number of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to go up if you were to include them. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss can actually take place over a few hours or days so the term is somewhat of a misnomer.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Due to the fact that the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are usually not able to discover what’s behind the cause for most cases. The sad truth is that only around 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be determined. Infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear are some of the most common causes that hearing specialist can pinpoint.

As mentioned, receiving treatment as soon as possible after the start of sudden hearing loss gives you the best chance of recovering at least some of your normal hearing.

Sudden Hearing Loss; How do You Treat it?

In cases when the cause is unknown and in most other cases, the normal course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid use, the goal is to minimize inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have done additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has evolved. Historically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for people who were worried about the side effects of medication or were unable to use oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

An injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be as effective as an oral steroid according to a 2018 NIDCD clinical trial, even side-stepping the downsides to oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to go straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country regularly give these injections in the office.

A panel of tests that might diagnose the inherent problem causing your sudden loss of hearing can be ordered by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking prompt medical attention is important. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other techniques for imaging and even a test of your balance.

We May be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Given the lack of solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, ongoing research digs deeper into what could be the culprit. New advancements with infusing drugs into little microspheres would offer a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

Researchers have proven that even though they might not have all the answers about sudden hearing loss, your chances of restoring your hearing is increased by getting early treatment. Make an appointment with a hearing specialist if you have hearing loss of any kind.