Sudden hearing loss accounts for about 1% of the overall number of sensorineural hearing loss cases. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss can occur at any point in anyone's lifetime. It can be a serious condition and you should seek medical attention immediately if you suddenly lose your hearing in one ear. We guide you through the causes, symptoms, and give advice on how to properly manage the condition if it's untreatable.
What is Sudden Hearing Loss?
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL), commonly known as sudden deafness, occurs rapidly, either all of a sudden or over a few days. SSHL is defined as a 30dB reduction in hearing which occurs over a three-day period or less. The majority of people who experience sudden hearing loss only lose hearing in one ear. Many people will first notice a hearing loss first thing in the morning or when using the phone. People with sudden deafness may experience dizziness and even tinnitus. Many people report that sudden hearing loss spontaneously vanishes.
Those who develop a case of SSHL should consult a medical professional as soon as possible, mainly to rule out a serious, but rare, medical problem like a stroke, but some treatments are effective if administered within 72 hours.
Causes of Sudden Hearing LossMost cases of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss have no identifiable origin and a cause can be found in only 15% of people. There are four main causes of SSHL:
- Circulatory anomalies
- A viral infection of the cochlea
- Irregularities of the cochlear membrane
- Autoimmune disorders
However, the most common cause is a disturbance of the cochlear blood flow. Some of the major causes of hearing loss are associated with ageing, childhood effusions, noise-induced hearing loss and infections. Hearing loss becomes more prevalent as the senior population increases.
Possible Causes of SSHL
Earwax: The most common and easily reversible cause of sudden hearing loss is earwax (which is a common problem for elderly people, a frequent cause of hearing loss, as well as of hearing aid malfunction). The solution may be as simple as the removal of the cerumen.
Excess fluid: Deviations in air pressure may result in malfunctioning eustachian tubes. They typically let air enter the middle ear to balance pressure. When the tubes do not work correctly, fluid can accumulate and obstruct sound vibrations from getting into the inner ear, which leads to a decreased ability to hear.
Infections: Some viruses cause infections in the hearing nerve or the inner ear. In cases where SSHL is a result of an infection of the inner ear, early treatment with antiviral medication and steroids will enhance the chance of recovery.
Damage to bones: If the bones located in the middle ear lose contact with each other or become frozen in place, sudden hearing loss is likely to occur.
Artery blockage: Blood is supplied to the inner ear by a single, small artery. Sudden hearing loss may occur if the artery becomes blocked. The cause of artery blockage may be the collection of plaques. Patients with high blood pressure and diabetics are at higher risk.
Ageing: Age-related hearing loss happens progressively. This has no effect on the conduction of sound waves and is simply a result of ageing cells. Furthermore, the causes of SSHL differ depending on age. For example, otosclerosis, chronic suppurative ear disease, previous trauma, history of ototoxic drug treatment or genetic causes may be signs of early hearing loss.
Treating Sudden Hearing LossDepending on the cause of SSHL, treatment will vary. In many cases, sudden hearing loss will fix itself naturally. Even so, you should visit a medical professional for audiological testing to make sure that the problem is not serious. If the hearing loss is progressive and remains, then hearing aids may be the next logical step to better hearing. Hearing aids have a positive effect on everyday activities for the hearing impaired and can greatly improve your quality of life. We also have a range of items to assist those with hearing loss such as:
At HearingDirect, we have created our very own online hearing test so you can test your hearing for free, quickly and in the comfort of your own home. For the test to check each ear individually, you will need some ear or headphones.
Once the test is complete, you will get your results instantly via email and based on the outcome of the hearing test, you may be encouraged to take further action.
Managing Hearing LossYou can manage hearing loss in a variety of ways. At Hearing Direct we supply a number of devices to help those effectively manage their hearing impairment.
We provide a range of key products to help those with hearing loss maintain a better quality of life. Digital hearing aids are crucial to lifestyle satisfaction, helping those with hearing loss enjoy the sounds they love to hear. The HD 91 is our entry-level model. It includes the essential features required to help improve hearing. It is so small and lightweight that it's likely you will forget you are even wearing a device.
About Hearing DirectWe are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, and information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. We sell:
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Joan McKechnie
After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.