Sudden hearing loss

It is well known among hearing healthcare practitioners that the average person waits seven years between the first suspicion of a hearing problem and a first trip to an audiologist. This is partly due to the insidious nature of typical hearing loss. It “sneaks up on you” and tends to progress slowly. There may be no additional symptoms other than difficulty hearing. These people will often seek help, realizing they should have scheduled the appointment years prior. Luckily, for most it is not too late to receive the help they need to improve their hearing and communication.

Lately, however, we have seen an alarming number of cases of sudden losses of hearing. This is a situation that must be dealt with promptly. What causes these sudden changes, and why do we want to see you so soon?

Sudden loss of hearing may take several forms. One or both ears may be affected. Other symptoms may accompany hearing change. These include dizziness, pain, tinnitus, drainage, “plugged” or “full” ear sensations. The problem may originate in the ear canal, middle ear, inner ear or the nerve pathway leading to the brain.

Causes of sudden loss of hearing include: middle ear fluid, head trauma, ear wax, autoimmune responses, Meniere’s disease, drug interactions, growths along the auditory nerve, anemia, labyrinthitis, swelling of ear canal tissues, outer ear infection, interruptions in blood flow and other factors.

Prompt medical attention is required for sudden losses of hearing. A diagnostic hearing/middle ear evaluation from an audiologist will provide an otolaryngologist with information that will guide treatment or additional diagnostic tools, such as MRI or CT studies. Courses of steroids or antibiotics may be ordered or surgery recommended. There may be a critical time window, after which hearing may not improve. Waiting is the wrong strategy. If you or someone you know has a sudden drop in hearing, let us be your first step. Call immediately for an appointment. We want to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.