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Sudden Deafness : Overview

What is sudden deafness?

Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) deafness
, commonly referred to as sudden deafness, is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing either all directly or over a couple of days. SSHL happens because there's something wrong with the sensory organs of the internal ear . Sudden deafness frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the deafness 
upon awakening within the morning. Others first notice it once they attempt to use the deafened ear, like once they use a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just before their hearing disappears. People with sudden deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms: a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their ears, such as tinnitus.

Sometimes, people with SSHL postpone 
seeing a doctor because they think their deafness is thanks to allergies, a sinus infection, earwax plugging the auditory meatus , or other common conditions. However, you ought to consider sudden deafness symptoms a medical emergency and visit a doctor immediately. Although about half people with SSHL recover some or all their hearing spontaneously, usually within one to 2 weeks from onset, delaying SSHL diagnosis and treatment (when warranted) can decrease treatment effectiveness. Receiving timely treatment greatly increases the prospect that you simply will recover a minimum of a number of your hearing.


What causes sudden deafness?

A variety of disorders affecting the ear can cause SSHL, but only about 10 percent of individuals 
diagnosed with SSHL have an identifiable cause.

Some of these conditions include:


Ø  Infections.

Ø  Head trauma.

Ø  Autoimmune diseases.

Ø  Exposure to certain drugs that treat cancer or severe infections.

Ø  Blood circulation problems.

Ø  Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

Ø  Disorders of the inner ear, such as Ménière’s disease.


How is sudden deafness diagnosed?

If you've got 
sudden deafness symptoms, your doctor should rule out conductive hearing loss—hearing loss thanks to an obstruction within the ear, like fluid or ear wax. For sudden deafness without a clear, identifiable cause upon examination, your doctor should perform a test called tone audiometry within a couple of days of onset of symptoms to identify any sensorineural hearing loss.

With tone 
audiometry, your doctor can measure how loud different frequencies, or pitches, of sounds got to be before you'll hear them. One sign of SSHL could be the loss of at least 30 decibels (decibels are a measure of sound intensity) in three connected frequencies within 72 hours. This drop would, for example, make conversational speech sound like a whisper. Patients may have more subtle, sudden changes in their hearing and should be diagnosed with other tests.

If you're 
diagnosed with sudden deafness, your doctor will probably order additional tests to undertake to work out an underlying cause for your SSHL. These tests may include blood tests, imaging (usually resonance imaging, or MRI), and balance tests.


How is sudden deafness treated?

The most common treatment for sudden deafness, especially when the cause is unknown, is corticosteroids. Steroids can treat many disorders and typically 
work by reducing inflammation, decreasing swelling, and helping the body fight illness. Previously, steroids were given in pill form. In 2011, a clinical test supported by the NIDCD showed that intratympanic (through the eardrum) injection of steroids was as effective as oral steroids. After this study, doctors started prescribing direct intratympanic injection of steroids into the center ear; the medication then flows into the internal ear . The injections can be performed in the offices of many otolaryngologists, and are a good option for people who cannot take oral steroids or want to avoid their side effects.

Steroids should be used as soon as possible for the best effect and may even be recommended before all test results come back. Treatment that is delayed for more than two to four weeks is less likely to reverse or reduce permanent hearing loss.

Additional treatments could also be 
needed if your doctor discovers an underlying explanation for your SSHL. For example, if SSHL is caused by an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. If you took drugs that were toxic to the ear, you'll be advised to modify to a different drug. If an autoimmune condition caused your system to attack the internal ear , the doctor may prescribe drugs that suppress the system .

If your deafness 
is severe, doesn't answer treatment, and/or happens in both ears, your doctor may recommend that you simply use hearing aids (to amplify sound) or maybe receive cochlear implants (to directly stimulate the auditory connections in the ear that go to the brain). 



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