Sudden hearing loss is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. As the name suggests, there is typically no warning, nor is there any way to predict who is at risk. Sudden hearing loss affects about 4000 new cases per year in the United States. It can affect one or both ears. Tinnitus and a feeling of fullness in the ear(s) often accompany the hearing loss.
In all cases, each patient needs to be seen by both an Audiologist and an ENT/Otologist. After taking a history and looking in the patient’s ears to assure that there is no wax causing the problem; a battery of audiometric tests is performed. The purpose of the testing is to determine the degree of the hearing loss and also to determine whether the sudden loss is due to malfunction of the hearing nerve or a problem in the middle ear. Hearing loss due to a problem in the hearing nerve or cochlea is called “sensorineural” and a loss that is caused by a problem in the middle ear is called “conductive.” You can also have a combination of the two, which is called a “mixed loss”. Different medical treatments are used for each of these types of hearing loss.
After the hearing testing is completed, and it is determined that the patient has sensorineural hearing loss, the patient is seen by the Physician for assessment and a treatment plan. Treatment often involves steroids, either taken orally or via an injection through the eardrum or both. This treatment is often repeated. During that time, it is important to have serial audiograms to follow any possible changes in hearing thresholds and/or speech discrimination ability.
What is the cause of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL)?
It can be caused ....