Most cases of hearing loss develop so gradually, it takes an average of seven years for people to seek medical attention. But occasionally, hearing loss develops suddenly and without warning. You might go to bed normally and wake up unable to hear. This rare but frightening condition is called sudden deafness.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing loss affects approximately one in five people in Elk Grove. 90 percent of cases are diagnosed as sensorineural hearing loss and affect the inner ear. Any reduction in hearing of 30 decibels (dB) or greater across three contiguous frequencies that occurs over a period of 72 hours or less is defined as sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SSHL. More commonly, it’s called sudden deafness.
The severity of sudden deafness varies among individuals. For some people, hearing returns to normal without any type of treatment after a few days. Others experience gradual improvement after a few weeks. 15 percent of individuals with sudden deafness notice a continued decline in their hearing abilities. Nine out of ten people who experience sudden deafness in Elk Grove will lose hearing in only one ear.
What Causes SSHL?
The onset of sudden deafness is understandably scary. While it’s pretty rare, there are over 100 possible causes; these include disease, infection, trauma, neurological disorders, circulatory problems, abnormal tissue growth and ototoxic drugs (medications whose side effects can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss). Loop diuretics, quinine, antibiotics and certain chemotherapy drugs can destroy the hair cells of the inner ear that are responsible for hearing with little or no warning.
Symptoms Associated with Sudden Deafness May Occur Before or During Its Onset
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Dizziness or vertigo
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- A sudden loud “pop” in the ear, similar to a change in pressure
- Muffled hearing upon waking up or when using the telephone
If you have ever had meningitis, suffered a head injury or ear infection, been exposed to loud noise, undergone a sudden change in pressure or been prescribed a new medication, your risk of developing sudden deafness is higher.
If you experience a sudden loss in hearing, contact an audiologist in Elk Grove immediately. Your best chances of making a full recovery depend on quick treatment. Steroids are often used to reduce inflammation and give your immune system a boost, but the exact treatment will depend on the underlying cause.