Hearing loss typically occurs slowly over time. However, it may happen in three days or less. This type of hearing loss is called a sudden hearing loss. If the cause involves problems with the inner ear or a nerve, it is a sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Conductive hearing loss (CHL), a different type of hearing loss, affects the ear canal, eardrum, or the middle ear. Sudden hearing loss can decrease the quality of life for people, so it is imperative to recognize and manage the problem early. Prompt treatment is the focus of a new update for the clinical practice guidelines. The intent of the update is the improvement of sudden hearing loss assessment and treatment.
The vast majority of SSHL cases involve only one ear, with only 2% reporting bilateral hearing loss. 55% of sudden hearing loss cases involve the left ear. As we age, the chances of experiencing sudden hearing loss increases. The incidence of sudden hearing loss is equal between women and men.
For most people, ear pressure or tinnitus is the first sign of sudden hearing loss. A hearing loss and dizziness might be present as well. The symptoms of sudden hearing loss occur at once or within a few days of each other. The symptoms may vary in severity and can affect one or both ears.
The actual cause of sudden hearing loss remains a mystery. What is known is that circulation within the inner ear reduces during sudden hearing loss. The possible reasons for sudden hearing loss include:
New guidelines are in place because the early management of sudden hearing loss can improve hearing and one’s quality of life. The update is an enhancement of the 2012 guidelines. The recommendations include distinguishing SSNHL from CHL at the initial presentation with hearing loss. The authors hope that focusing on opportunities for improvement will improve diagnostic accuracy while speeding up intervention. The updated guidelines can help to enhance the care of patients with sudden hearing loss. The update will guide clinicians in the determination of the type of hearing loss as well as giving recommendations regarding the assessment and treatment of the hearing loss.
Sudden hearing loss is not easy to treat. It is crucial that you get medical care immediately to rule out any other severe medical conditions. The best method of treating sudden hearing loss is debatable. Some experts believe in aggressive treatment to reverse hearing loss while others feel that sudden hearing loss will resolve with or without treatment. Roughly 30 to 70 percent of cases will become permanent. For these patients, the treatment options may include hearing aids or cochlear implants.
If you are facing sudden hearing loss see a hearing healthcare professional now. Early diagnosis and treatment of sudden hearing loss is key to a successful diagnosis and possible treatment.