Audiologist in consultation with patient

If you suddenly lose hearing in one ear, you must act just as suddenly to address the situation.

Failure to seek professional help immediately could result in permanent hearing loss. Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte offers the following information about why it’s important to act quickly in the case of sudden hearing loss – whether it occurs in one ear or both. The health condition could be a serious medical emergency known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), which affects about 4,000 people each year.

What is SSHL?

Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the tiny nerves of the ear are either damaged or die off, resulting in permanent damage. This is a gradual type of hearing loss that typically worsens over time and isn’t reversible.

The “sudden” variety occurs very quickly, within a few days. During this time, sounds become more muffled and the ear may lose its ability to hear certain frequencies and pitches. SSHL occurs in one ear 90% of the time, usually affecting people younger than 50 years old.

What causes SSHL?

There are a number of potential causes of SSHL, including the stoppage of blood flow to the inner ear. There is only one artery delivering blood to the inner ear – if it gets blocked, the delicate components of the inner ear begin dying off.

Possible causes of this blood flow stoppage include:

  • High blood pressure or poor blood circulation
  • Meniere Disease
  • Severe ear infection
  • Ototoxic drugs (those that impair hearing) such as ibuprofen and aspirin, chemotherapy drugs, opiates, antibiotics and diuretics
  • Exposure to very loud sound (explosion, earbuds with sound cranked up, standing near booming speakers at a concert, etc)

Treatment of SSHL

Fortunately, sudden hearing loss can be treatable if addressed quickly. Up to 65% of those who experience an SSHL episode will get all or some of their hearing back within a month.

If the hearing loss is caused by a loud sound, the body’s inflammatory response afterward can make things worse. Your physician may suggest an oral steroid or steroid injection to relieve the inflammation or give you hyperbaric oxygen to get more oxygen to the inner ear.

If you believe you’ve experienced SSHL, call us immediately at 704-412-7975. If you are not able to visit a doctor within 24 hours, go to the nearest emergency room.

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