Does Hearing Loss Happen Suddenly? - Olive Union

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Does Hearing Loss Happen Suddenly?



This article delves into crucial information about sudden onset hearing loss. Exploring what sudden hearing loss entails, its causes, treatment options, and the potential for recovery. Additionally, it provides insights into the support available for those experiencing sudden hearing loss.



What is sudden hearing loss?


  Sudden hearing loss, medically known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss or SSHL, refers to a condition where hearing in one ear or both ears sharply and unexpectedly decreases or disappears, making it challenging to perceive sounds.

 This frightening sudden hearing loss can lead to a complete loss of hearing within as little as a day. Some individuals, overwhelmed by this abrupt change, might mistakenly attribute it to fatigue or general malaise, dismissing it without seeking medical attention. There are cases where people, unable to accept the sudden alteration, perceive their hearing impairment as mere tiredness and do not take any medical action.

 If one day you find yourself unable to hear your name being called, or even if you struggle to hear despite raising the volume on your headphones,

It is crucial to promptly visit an ENT specialist for urgent medical intervention.

 While it can affect just one ear(unilateral hearing loss), it sometimes occurs simultaneously in both ears(bilateral hearing loss).
Moreover, if sudden hearing loss occurs in only one ear, the process of awareness might be slower compared to when both ears are affected by hearing impairment.

 Sudden hearing loss necessitates prompt medical attention as it can cause substantial communication difficulties and affect the overall quality of life.

The causes can vary, underscoring the importance of swift diagnosis and appropriate treatment by healthcare professionals. Seeking immediate medical intervention is crucial, as timely and proper care can make a significant difference in managing sudden hearing loss effectively.



What is the most common cause of sudden hearing loss


  • Idiopathic (Unknown Cause)

  It occurs when a person experiences a sudden and unexplained loss of hearing, without any specific factors such as viral infections, medical conditions, vascular issues, or neurological problems.

  Finding a definite cause for this sudden hearing loss can be challenging, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific reason. This condition is often referred to as idiopathic because of its unexplained nature.
In fact, among patients with sudden hearing loss, cases caused by idiopathic factors are the most common.



  • Viral infections

  Sudden hearing loss caused by viral infections, also known as viral-induced sudden sensorineural hearing loss, typically occurs when viruses lead to infections or strong inflammation in the inner ear. These infections can damage the tissues around the auditory organs or induce inflammation, abruptly impairing hearing function.

Viral infections can directly invade the auditory organs or affect crucial neural structures that control hearing.
Damaged tissues and nerves can improve rapidly with prompt treatment using antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs.

However, if the opportunity for treatment is missed, it can become incredibly challenging to recover as the damaged tissues may become irreparable. In such cases, more difficult treatment options like implanting devices into the ear might have to be considered.
ISHL typically affects one ear and leads to a sudden impairment in the person's ability to hear everyday sounds.


  • Vascular issues

  Sudden hearing loss due to vascular issues occurs as a result of problems with blood circulation that affect the auditory function. Typically, this kind of hearing loss arises when there are circulatory disturbances in the otolaryngological area.

Such sudden hearing loss from vascular problems often happens when blood flow is blocked or restricted in specific blood vessels, caused by factors like blood clots or narrowing of the blood vessels. Consequently, the supply of essential nutrients and oxygen to the auditory organs diminishes, resulting in hearing loss.
This is a common cause, often seen in patients with poor blood circulation, particularly among those with diabetes or high blood pressure.



  • Autoimmune disease

  Various autoimmune diseases can potentially trigger sudden hearing loss. Among them, conditions such as Meniere's disease, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis, Temporal Arteritis, and Wegener's Granulomatosis have been linked to sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

In these diseases, the immune system can act aggressively against the auditory system, leading to auditory impairment. Consequently, sudden hearing loss may occur, often affecting one ear.

Specifically, Meniere's disease, characterized by fluid imbalance in the inner ear, can result in hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disturbances, and is considered a type of autoimmune disorder. It's crucial to seek immediate medical attention if experiencing such symptoms, as these conditions require specialized medical diagnosis and treatment.


  • Exposure to Loud Noise

  You may have experienced the sudden jolt of hearing fireworks or gunshots without any preparation, leaving your ears ringing for a while. Such abrupt and extremely loud sounds can be quite detrimental to your hearing, and this kind of exposure might not always be temporary.

Moreover, it's not just the incredibly loud noises, like gunfire or fireworks, that can harm your hearing. Even everyday loud sounds, such as construction site noise, car honks, concerts, sports events, or the booming music in bars and clubs, can cause continuous damage to your auditory nerves.

People who are consistently exposed to such sounds due to their professions often experience sudden hearing loss attributed to these factors. Theoretically, continuous exposure to sounds above 70 decibels can easily lead to hearing impairment. Starting today, make an effort to lower the volume on your earphones!



Can you recover from a sudden hearing loss?

  According to a survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2022, the recovery rate for sudden deafness is around 28%.

In fact, this can be considered a very low figure. Many people disregarded sudden hearing loss as a serious issue, thinking their hearing would return to normal on its own. Consequently, a significant number missed the opportune time for treatment, making the success rate appear quite low.

In some cases, especially if the cause is identified and treated promptly (such as in cases of earwax blockage or certain infections), hearing can be partially or fully restored.

However, if the cause of sudden hearing loss remains unknown (idiopathic), the chances of recovery might be lower. Treatment in such cases often involves the use of steroids to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to the inner ear, which can sometimes lead to partial or complete recovery of hearing.



How is Sudden Hearing Loss Treated?


Idiopathic (Unknown Cause)

The methods for treating idiopathic (unknown cause) sudden hearing loss (ISHL) can be complex due to the difficulty in identifying its origin. Nevertheless, doctors may consider the following approaches:

  • Steroid Therapy: Steroid medications, usually taken orally or administered through injections, can help reduce inflammation and potentially restore hearing function.

  • Antiviral Drugs: The term 'idiopathic' doesn't necessarily mean it's not viral sudden hearing loss. It could simply indicate that no significant values appeared in the tests, or the doctor, due to numerous potential causes, diagnosed it as idiopathic for simplicity's sake. Therefore, If a virus is the suspected cause, antiviral medications might be prescribed. However, their effectiveness could be limited if the cause remains unclear.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Medications that reduce inflammation can improve hearing by reducing inflammation in the inner ear.

  • Oxygen Therapy: If the issue lies in poor blood circulation, oxygen therapy can be effective. Oxygen therapy increases blood circulation and supplies oxygen to damaged cells, promoting recovery.

Most patients with idiopathic sudden hearing loss tend to explore treatment options, excluding methods that are clearly ineffective, and often attempt various treatments at a lower intensity level.



Viral infections

If viral sudden hearing loss receives prompt and appropriate treatment, the likelihood of better outcomes is higher compared to sudden hearing loss caused by other factors.

  • Antiviral Medications: In cases where the hearing loss is caused by a viral infection, antiviral medications may be prescribed. These drugs work to inhibit the proliferation of the virus, limiting the extent of hearing loss.

  • Steroid Therapy: Steroid medications can reduce inflammation and regulate immune responses, easing the symptoms of hearing loss. Steroids are typically administered orally or via injections.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Medications that reduce inflammation can mitigate the impact of inflammation on auditory function.

  • Cochlear Implants: For severe cases of hearing loss, cochlear implants, which can substitute or enhance hearing, might be considered.






Vascular issues


  • Anticoagulants: Anticoagulant medications may be used to improve blood flow, addressing hearing loss caused by blood clots or narrowing of blood vessels.

  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Medications that reduce inflammation and enhance blood circulation can be helpful for hearing loss related to vascular issues.

  • Medications to Enhance Blood Circulation: Drugs that promote blood circulation and widen blood vessels might be prescribed to improve blood flow.

  • Oxygen Therapy: Oxygen therapy can increase blood circulation and enhance cellular function by supplying oxygen to the blood, potentially aiding in cases of vascular-related hearing loss.

  • Surgical Interventions: In severe cases of vascular issues, surgical interventions might be necessary. Surgical procedures to improve blood flow and expand blood vessels could be performed.



Autoimmune disease

The treatment methods for sudden hearing loss caused by autoimmune diseases primarily focus on suppressing the immune response and reducing inflammation.

  • Steroid Therapy: Steroid medications may be used to reduce inflammation, aiding in the recovery of hearing function.

  • Immunosuppressive Drugs: In cases of autoimmune diseases, immunosuppressive drugs might be prescribed. These medications work by suppressing the immune response, limiting the extent of hearing loss.

  • Immunomodulatory Agents: Immunomodulatory drugs help regulate the immune system, balancing immune responses. This can alleviate hearing loss caused by autoimmune disorders.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Medications that reduce inflammation can mitigate the impact of inflammation on auditory function.

  • Immunosorbent Therapy: Certain drugs can absorb or deactivate specific immune cells, inhibiting the immune response.




Exposure to Loud Noise

The treatment methods for sudden hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise typically focus on minimizing damage and restoring hearing function.

  • Medication: Steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs might be used to reduce inflammation and aid in the recovery of hearing function.

  • Use of Hearing Protection Devices: Headphones or earplugs can be used to protect the ears and prevent exposure to loud noises. These devices help protect hearing and prevent further damage.

  • Noise Reduction: Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can be used to minimize the impact of noise. They block out noise, protecting hearing.


However, not everyone with sudden deafness is cured. Even if it's not complete hearing loss, they might not hear as well as before.

In such cases, individuals with sudden deafness are essential to use hearing aids or amplification devices. If poor hearing is not corrected, it doesn't just stay at that level; it tends to worsen faster.


Therefore, alongside the mentioned treatments, investing in high-quality hearing aids and sound amplifiers can lead to even better outcomes.



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