SUDDEN SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS (SSNHL)
One sign of sudden sensorineural hearing loss could be the loss of at least 30dB of hearing in three connected frequencies within a 72 hour period.
Everyone’s hearing naturally declines with age, and people often have one ear that hears better than the other. If hearing loss appears suddenly in one ear for no apparent reason, you may have experienced a sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a kind of nerve deafness.
Those who experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss generally discover hearing loss when waking up in the morning. Others might notice when they try to use the deafened ear, such as using a phone. Many note a loud “POP” just before they lose their hearing. People with sudden deafness can also experience one or more of these symptoms: dizziness, feeling of ear fullness, ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus).
If caught in time, sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be treated and corrected by an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss symptoms should be seen as a medical emergency. Prompt treatment significantly increases the chance that at least some hearing can be recovered.
It is estimated that sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects between one and six people per 5,000 every year, but the actual number of new cases can be much higher, due to the fact that it often goes misdiagnosed. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss can affect people of all ages, but is most commonly seen in adults in their early 40s and 50s.
Diagnosing Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Ruling out conductive hearing loss, or hearing loss due to an obstruction such as fluid or wax in the ear is a good place to start. For sudden hearing loss without any clear cause upon examination, you should be referred to an ear, nose and throat surgeon and audiologist right away.
The ear, nose and throat surgeon can medically treat the condition at hand.
The audiologist will determine if the hearing loss is conductive or sensorineural with a diagnostic hearing test. Additional testing completed by the audiologist may include: (1) Tympanogram, (2) Acoustic reflexes, 3) Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) and/or (4) Auditory brainstem response (ABR). The information gathered by the audiologist will help guide the ear, nose and throat surgeons’ treatment plan.
What Causes Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
(1) Viral infections. One in four patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss reports suffering from an upper respiratory infection within a month before the hearing loss. What virus causes sudden hearing loss? Viruses associated with sudden hearing loss include mumps, measles, rubella, as well as meningitis, syphilis and AIDS, among many others.
(2) Tumors. A variety of tumors in the ear, benign as well as malignant, may cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
(3) Head trauma affecting hair cells, eardrum or bones. Partial or total recovery from head injury induced hearing loss can be expected.
(4) Drugs and insecticides. Erectile dysfunction medications, a long list of prescription drugs and chronic abuse of painkillers may cause sudden hearing loss. Insecticides such as malathion and methoxychlor have been associated with sudden hearing loss in both ears (binaural sudden sensorineural hearing loss).
(5) Immunological disorders.
(6) Vascular disorders disrupting blood flow to the ear.
(7) Developmental abnormalities.
(8) Idiopathic disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, Meniere’s disease and others.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treatment
The most common treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, especially when the cause is unknown, is corticosteroids administered by an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Steroids can treat many disorders and usually work by reducing inflammation, decreasing swelling, and helping the body fight illness. Additional treatments may be needed if you discover an underlying cause of your sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
It is very common for virally induced sudden hearing loss to be misdiagnosed as a middle ear infection. As a result, the typical treatments of middle ear infection, usually caused by bacteria, do not affect the virus actually causing the problem.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE THE DIFFERENCE?
|SYMPTOM||MIDDLE EAR INFECTION||VIRAL EAR INFECTION|
|Hearing loss in both ears||Frequently||Rarely|
|Pressure in ears||Frequently||Sometimes|
|Dizziness, tinnitus or vertigo||Rarely||Frequently|
|Appearance of eardrum||Fluid behind eardrum or
it looks opaque
|Usual treatments||Antibiotics||Trans-tympanic steroid injection|
|Misdiagnosis leads to||Spread of infection to other parts of the head||Permanent hearing loss|