People can suddenly lose hearing. This is more likely to occur in only one ear. It may be both ears, however, and there may be additional symptoms. There are many possible causes. Healthcare providers need to be able to find the most likely cause and begin treatment fast.

Symptoms that may go along with sudden loss of hearing include dizziness, nausea, ear pain, ear drainage, imbalance or double vision. Much of this comes from the vestibular (balance) organs of the inner ear. The same fluid that fills the hearing portion of the inner ear fills the balance portion. Anything that disrupts the chemistry or volume of this fluid can affect both hearing and balance. You may lose a small or large amount of hearing. It may be difficult to tell how much if one ear is unaffected.

Possible conditions include ear infections, noise exposure, stroke, Meniere’s Disease (too much inner ear fluid), migraine, neurological disorders, labyrinthitis, autoimmune responses, growths on the hearing/balance nerve. Excessive ear wax can cause minor dizziness and temporary loss of hearing.

Possible risk factors include smoking, family history, autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions, migraine, exposure to sick people. Sudden loud sounds can cause loss of hearing. Ear plugs can compact wax in the canals.

Possible treatments include steroid therapy, ear wax removal, antibiotics, ventilation tubes. Diagnosis determines treatment. Vestibular therapy may be necessary for balance or vertigo disorders.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment for any sudden loss of hearing with or without associated symptoms is essential. Certain cases can be reversible. There may be a limited time window for effective treatment. An audiologist or your primary physician will know when an otolaryngologist may need to be involved. A diagnostic audiological test battery, including case history, otoscopy, middle ear tests and hearing test is a good first step. Do not wait if you suspect sudden change in hearing. As always, we wish to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.