While it is never a pleasant experience to lose one's ability to hear, one of the most frightening and unpleasant ways to suffer such an affliction is through something known as sudden hearing loss. Those who have themselves, or know someone who has, experienced this condition is all too familiar with the difficulties that may be faced. The diagnosis may be obvious in some cases, but in others a firm cause can never be confirmed. This baffling condition catches many a person off guard. Many cases are reported of individuals simply waking up one day to find their ability to hear gone! Of course the first question is 'why?' immediately followed by 'what can be done now?' Those questions, however, may be more challenging to answer.
The first step is seeing an audiologist who can help to specifically diagnose the particular type of sudden hearing loss, or sudden sensorineural loss. Affecting the inner ear, sudden sensorineural loss is quite controversial even amongst specialists, and leaves many who suffer from the condition completely perplexed. There are many theories behind the exact cause, but unfortunately not nearly as many that come up with a permanent solution.
The first type, sudden conductive hearing loss affects the middle ear, and is rather easy to diagnose and correct. Sometimes something as simple as a head cold can cause fluids to build up, or even infections, that result in nearly instantaneous onset of a loss in the ability to hear. The small bones of the middle ear cannot freely move about and therefore sounds cannot be as clearly distinguished or even heard. When the fluid drains the hearing problems should generally disappear entirely with time if this is the case, however, other causes may mean longer recovery times, or permanent damage. More severe cases of sudden conductive loss may result from a head injury, or a sudden loud noise like an explosion. Sometimes surgery can repair the latter type of sudden conductive loss.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear, and should be considered a real medical emergency. Heading straight to a specialist like an audiologist is recommended if a person notices that their ability to hear has almost entire or entirely diminished in a period of one minute to three days. Many people do not notice their condition right away because the onset happens during sleep, or because it only affects one ear. Some people hear a loud 'popping' sound right before the loss of the ability to hear, headache and many experience dizziness or ringing of the ears known as tinnitus. While some cases are caused by factors from the external environment and afflictions like ototoxic drugs, Meniere's disease, acoustic neuroma, head trauma, circulatory system problems and more, the vast majority of cases go unresolved as far as establishing a direct cause.
When it's time to find hearing solutions, many people experiencing sudden loss can turn to surgeries, medicinal remedies, or may just have to wait for the condition to improve on its own. It is likely ENT doctors will attempt to treat the condition with a variety of methods including steroids, diuretics, antihistamines, anticoagulants, anti-viral and more to see if anything makes a quick difference. In some cases, the use of hearing aids may become necessary. Whatever the cause and decided course of treatment, see your ENT doctor and audiologist right away to prevent the damage from worsening unnecessarily!