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Image of someone going to ER to treat sudden hearing loss.

More often than we would care to admit, in our modern day society, we put off on health care.

Think of the parents who consistently put the needs of their children in front of their own, making certain their sons and daughters receive proactive and reactive care when necessary, but failing to do the same for themselves. You can say the same for the working professional who refuses to cancel a meeting to squeeze in a doctor’s appointment. Then there are those who live by an “ignorance is bliss” attitude and avoid the doctor’s office for fear of what they might hear.

But what would you do if you needed more than just this year’s preventive flu shot or something to ward off a sinus infection? If you woke up one day and had complete hearing loss in one or both ears what would you do then?

If your answer is to just wait it out until your hearing returns, there’s a good chance it never will. Hearing experts caution that sudden, temporary loss of hearing could advance to permanent hearing loss without immediate treatment, specifically if the damage is at the nerve level.

Sudden Hearing Loss, What is it?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), only about half the individuals who experience sudden hearing loss–the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability–will regain some or all of their hearing naturally.

Sudden hearing loss is more likely to occur than is commonly recognized. As a matter of fact for every 5,000 people, between one and six are estimated to experience sudden loss of hearing. Having said that, the NIDCD warns that the number of undiagnosed cases would cause that number to swell if you were to include them. This means that this year around 400,000 Americans or more could experience sudden hearing loss.

The term “sudden” is a bit of a misnomer in this instance as what’s categorically labeled as sudden hearing loss can happen over several hours or up to three days.

What is The Cause of Sudden Hearing Loss?

Doctors are frequently unable to figure out the cause because it comes on over hours or even days. The unfortunate reality is that determining a cause is possible in only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. Of those that hearing specialists can pinpoint, the most common causes are autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, infections, exposure to certain drugs, blood circulation disorders and inner ear disorders.

Your best possibility of getting back at least some of your normal hearing function, as mentioned, is to get treatment right away.

How do You Deal With Sudden Hearing Loss?

In many cases, specifically those where the cause is unknown, the usual course of treatment consists of corticosteroids. As with all steroid use, the goal is to reduce inflammation and decrease swelling.

As medicine has advanced and more researchers have done additional studies on sudden loss of hearing, the recommended method of treatment has evolved. Classically, doctors prescribed these steroids in pill form, but this was a challenge for those who were unable to take oral steroids and those who were worried about the side effects associated with the medication.

A 2011 clinical trial supported by the NIDCD revealed that an injection of steroids into the eardrum proved to be just as effective as oral steroids, even side-stepping the downsides to oral alternatives by enabling the medicine to flow straight into the ear. Ear, nose and throat specialist around the country routinely give these injections in the office.

A group of tests that could diagnose the underlying issue causing your sudden loss of hearing can be ordered by your doctor and that’s another reason why seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. These tests can even determine whether you can keep your balance as well as doing blood-work and several imaging techniques.

We May be Getting Close to New Treatment For Sudden Hearing Loss

Given the lack of concrete information around the cause of sudden hearing loss, ongoing research goes deeper into what may be the culprit. A potentially safer way of administering steroids is the new development of infusing the drug into microspheres.

Researchers have proven that even though they may not have all the answers regarding sudden loss of hearing, your chances of restoring your hearing is increased by seeking early treatment. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, either sudden or gradual, you should contact a hearing expert right away.