December 22, 2014
Frequently we will see patients with disruptive ear symptoms. These may be sudden hearing loss, plugged ear sensations, sudden-onset tinnitus, veering while walking or spinning dizziness sensations. Some of these people will wait weeks or even months to be examined. This may be due to either lack of concern, scheduling concerns or fear of the unknown. Experience has shown us it is rarely wise to wait to examine a problem that may be either very serious or easily treatable.
With sudden loss of hearing, often in one ear only, the cause could be located in the outer ear, the middle ear, or the inner ear. The implications vary greatly across these possibilities. An outer ear cause of sudden loss may be a foreign body in the canal, wax impaction or infection. Middle ear causes may involve congestion of the Eustachian tube, fluid behind the ear drum or damage to the three tiny bones that transmit sound. Inner ear causes include infection, autoimmune reactions, leaking of inner-ear fluid, or head trauma. Many of these kinds of hearing disruptions may present as “plugging” sensations.
Sudden-onset (or sudden-awareness) tinnitus, or ear ringing, is often a benign condition, however, it bears having the ears and hearing examined. This noise may be a ring, a hiss, a buzz, a chirp, a pulse or other type of sound. It may be a symptom of an underlying problem needing attention.
Sudden loss of balance and/or dizziness may signal conditions such as inner ear infection, growths along the hearing nerve or nervous system abnormalities. This is another condition that should be examined expeditiously. The hearing system needs to be evaluated as well, as the ears are our main balance organs. The state of hearing can give clues about the underlying cause. Also, common variants of vertigo can be solved in one or two visits without medication or surgery.
A good first step for all these conditions is a thorough examination of the ears, including middle ear testing and full-scale audiogram. A trained audiologist will be sensitive to “red flags” that require prompt medical treatment and guide toward the appropriate next step. Do not wait on sudden hearing loss. We want to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.