Sudden hearing loss can be frightening and damaging if not treated immediately. Some people suffer from this type of hearing loss and wait a few days or even weeks, hoping that it will recover on its own. In some cases, this may occur but in many cases this does not happen; therefore, it should be given immediate attention for the best possible outcome.
According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, sudden hearing loss (SHL) is defined as greater than 30 dB hearing reduction, over at least three contiguous frequencies, occurring over a period of 72 hours or less. Most patients report the hearing loss in the morning or as a rapid decline over a period of hours or days. It can occur in one or both ears and may also be associated with symptoms of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo (dizziness).
Evaluation consists of a thorough case history and physical examination to rule out infectious causes such as otitis media, systemic diseases and exposure to known ototoxic medications. An audiogram (hearing test) is required to document the decline in hearing and blood tests may be performed to determine any causes like Lyme disease, metabolic, autoimmune, and circulatory disorders. An MRI is usually recommended to rule out an acoustic neuroma. As you can see, there are many potential causes of SHL; however, it usually remains unknown for most patients.
Due to the various causes of SHL, there are different treatments available. Some of these treatments include systemic steroids, antiviral medications, vasodilators, carbogen therapy either (alone or in combination) or no treatment at all. Whichever treatment is chosen, the crucial step is getting to the physician and audiologist as soon as possible to figure out the proper course of action. The earlier the treatment is started, the better the prognosis.
Finally, if a SHL remains permanent, amplification is usually the best solution. If this is the outcome, it is best to seek treatment from your audiologist.