February 26, 2024

A 5 Star Review and a Vital Message

We recently received the following welcome but, seemingly simple, review. In fact, the emergency that’s referred to involved ‘Sudden Onset Hearing Loss’ – something which we’ve talked about before but which we can never highlight enough, because knowing about it and getting the correct treatment QUICKLY can, literally, save your hearing.

Here’s the review and then read on for more about SOHL:

“I visited the Practice yesterday with what seemed like a routine enquiry but from your testing turned out to be an emergency. So I was thankful I reached out.

Your professionalism and dedication were testament to your 30+ years in the business.

The advanced tech used in your testing was thorough – no stone left unturned. First-class expertise and prompt assistance.

I have already recommended your services since!

Once again, thank you for your exceptional care and professionalism. I appreciate your dedication to your patients, and thankful to have received your assistance.”

As is the case with all our reviews, we’re very grateful when people take the time to record their experiences with Hearing Healthcare Practice. Thank you.

Sudden Onset Hearing Loss (SOHL)

Here, with thanks to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders is an introduction to Sudden Onset Hearing Loss, and why it is so important to recognise and to consult expert guidance. The individual above was lucky (and clever) enough to contact Hearing Healthcare Practice rapidly and this description will underline why.

Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss(SSHL), commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days. SSHL happens because there is something wrong with the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover their hearing loss upon waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when they try to use the deafened ear, such as when 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. (For more information, read the NIDCD fact sheet Tinnitus.)

Sometimes, people with SSHL put off seeing a doctor because they think their hearing loss is due to allergies, a sinus infection, earwax plugging the ear canal, or other common conditions. However, you should consider sudden deafness symptoms a medical emergency and visit a doctor immediately. Although about half of people with SSHL recover some or all their hearing spontaneously, usually within one to two weeks from onset, delaying SSHL diagnosis and treatment (when warranted) can decrease treatment effectiveness. Receiving timely treatment greatly increases the chance that you will recover at least some of your hearing.

Experts estimate that SSHL strikes between one and six people per 5,000 every year, but the actual number of new SSHL cases each year could be much higher because SSHL often goes undiagnosed. SSHL can happen to people at any age, but most often affects adults in their late 40s and early 50s.

What causes sudden deafness?

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

Some of these conditions include:

  • Infections.
  • Head trauma.
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Exposure to certain drugs that treat cancer or severe infections.
  • Blood circulation problems.
  • Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
  • Disorders of the inner ear, such as Ménière’s disease. (For more information, read the NIDCD fact sheet Ménière’s Disease.)

Most of these causes are accompanied by other medical conditions or symptoms that point to the correct diagnosis. Another factor to consider is whether hearing loss happens in one or both ears. For example, if sudden hearing loss occurs only in one ear, tumors on the auditory nerve should be ruled out as the cause. Autoimmune disease may cause SSHL in one or both ears.

How is sudden onset hearing loss diagnosed?

If you have sudden deafness symptoms, your doctor should rule out conductive hearing loss—hearing loss due to an obstruction in the ear, such as fluid or ear wax. For sudden deafness without an obvious, identifiable cause upon examination, your doctor should perform a test called pure tone audiometry within a few days of onset of symptoms to identify any sensorineural hearing loss.

With pure tone audiometry, your doctor can measure how loud different frequencies, or pitches, of sounds need to be before you can 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 may be diagnosed with other tests.

If you are diagnosed with sudden deafness, your doctor will probably order additional tests to try to determine an underlying cause for your SSHL. These tests may include blood tests, imaging (usually magnetic 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 usually work by reducing inflammation, decreasing swelling, and helping the body fight illness. Previously, steroids were given in pill form. In 2011, a clinical trial 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 middle ear; the medication then flows into the inner 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.

Please share this post, because the more people who know, the more people’s hearing we can save.

With thanks to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.