When to worry about sudden hearing loss and what to do about it

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), also known as sudden deafness, is hearing loss that is not caused by trauma – like a firecracker exploding next to your ear.  It is an unexplained and rapid hearing loss that can happen overnight.  SSNHL is marked by inflammation of the inner ear, and will typically only affect one ear.  “About half of people with SSNHL regain at least some of the hearing in the affected ear spontaneously, according to the AAO-HNS. This usually occurs within one to two weeks.”  If you are experiencing sudden deafness it’s important to see a doctor right away to discuss a plan for treatment.

“You may also want to ask your ENT about hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). This involves breathing pure oxygen in a special chamber as a way to boost oxygen to your ear and brain. Studies on HBOT have been mixed, but some research suggests that doing it within two weeks of the onset of symptoms in combination with steroids or within four weeks in people who don’t respond to steroids may help.”

10% of patients will receive a clear diagnosis and reason for why they are experiencing SSNHL, but the trigger remains a mystery for the other 90%. Even though most patients do not get a clear answer as to “why” they have sudden deafness, you can find comfort in knowing there are multiple treatments available to help aid in the process of regaining your hearing, or to benefit you long-term and improve your quality of life (i.e. hearing aids or cochlear implants).

Read the full article here at the Washington Post