Most hearing loss occurs gradually, over years or even decades. Although it’s something to get checked out by a professional when it’s noticed, it’s not a medical emergency.
There is a kind of hearing loss, however, that must not be ignored for even a day: sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) occurs either instantly or over the course of a few days. Some people notice it when they wake up in the morning and immediately sense that their hearing is impaired.
Manatee Ear Center in Bradenton, Florida reminds you that SSHL, which often occurs on one ear and may be accompanied by dizziness, should always be treated as an emergency. Medical treatment should be sought immediately. Tell the doctor’s office you have experienced a sudden hearing loss. If you can’t see a physician immediately, you should visit an emergency room or urgent care center.
The sudden hearing loss may be due to loud noise or another situation that causes the artery carrying blood to the inner ear to become blocked. If the inner ear is denied a proper blood supply, tiny hair cells can die off, causing permanent hearing loss. Possible causes of the blood stoppage include:
- Severe ear infection
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Autoimmune disease
- Trauma to the head or ear
- Tumor in the brain or ear
Timing is of the essence in treating SSHL. If caused by a loud sound, the damage can be exacerbated by the ear’s inflammatory response occurring afterward. A hearing professional or doctor can give steroids to the person to reduce the inflammation before it worsens the damage. You may also receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which quickly increases the amount of oxygen reaching the inner ear. These treatments must be received quickly to reduce the risk of permanent damage.
Up to 65% of people experiencing SSHL will fully or partially recover their hearing within a month’s time. Hearing aids may be required for those who don’t fully recover. Age, poor overall health and the presence of diabetes and high blood pressure can negatively impact recovery.
If you experience sudden hearing loss, immediately contact Manatee Ear Center in Bradenton, Florida at 941-745-1518, your primary physician’s office or the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.