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

In our modern society, putting off health care is a situation that occurs more often than we’d like to admit.

Think about people who disregard their own health care so they can obtain protection for their children. 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 scared of what they could hear so they stay away from the doctor’s office preferring to remain ignorant.

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

If your answer is just to ignore it until your hearing returns, chances are it never will. Hearing specialists caution that if you don’t have sudden temporary hearing loss treated right away, particularly if it’s at the nerve level, it may become permanent.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals 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.

Many people would be surprised to find out how frequently sudden hearing loss occurs. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. But according to the NIDC, if undiagnosed claims were included, that number would go up significantly. This means that this year about 400,000 Americans or more could develop sudden hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss can actually happen over several hours or days so the term is a bit of a misnomer.

Sudden Hearing Loss; What is The Cause?

Due to the fact that the onset can happen over hours or days, doctors are seldom able to discover what causes most cases. The unfortunate reality is that only around 10 percent of people diagnosed with sudden hearing loss have a cause that can be determined. Of those that hearing specialists can determine, the most common causes are infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation problems, neurological disorders and disorders of the inner ear.

Your best chance of recovering at least some of your regular hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

In most cases, particularly those where the cause is not known, the usual course of treatment involves corticosteroids. As with all steroid usage, the purpose is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

The recommended means of treatment has evolved since researchers have carried out more studies on sudden loss of hearing and medicine has modernized. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but for individuals who were leery of the side effects of medication or were unable to use oral steroids, this offered a challenge.

A 2011 clinical trial established by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids through the eardrum proved to be just as reliable as oral steroids, even making it possible for the medication to flow right into the inner ear, without the downside of the oral options. These injections are now a common method of treatment in the offices of ear, nose and throat specialists around the country.

Another reason why getting immediate medical attention is so important is that your doctor may order a group of tests that could diagnose the underlying problem behind your sudden hearing loss or another dangerous condition. These tests may include blood-work, an MRI or other methods of imaging and even an examination of your ability to balance.

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

Given the lack of solid information around the cause of sudden loss of hearing, continuing research goes deeper into what could be the cause. New developments with infusing drugs into little microspheres would provide a new technique of administering the steroids in what could be a safer way.

While many aspects of sudden loss of hearing continue to be a mystery, researchers and medical professionals have shown repeatedly that early treatment increases your chances of getting back the hearing you’ve lost. Contact a hearing expert if you have hearing loss of any type.