Treating Sudden Hearing Loss

Treating Sudden Hearing Loss

The sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears can be frightening, but many patients make a full recovery. For patients who are left with a degree of hearing loss and tinnitus, treatments such as hearing aids and audiological rehabilitation can provide relief. Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is a medical emergency: it should always be taken seriously and assessed by a doctor immediately, for better chances of a full recovery of hearing.

Some facts about sudden hearing loss:

-Sudden hearing loss occurs when there is a loss greater than 30 decibels over three frequencies, which appears over a period of less than three days.

-Sudden hearing loss often appears without a warning sign and for no apparent reason. It typically develops in 24 hours or less.

-The hearing loss may be noticed first thing in the morning, and you may hear a “pop” in your ear before the loss occurs.

-SSNHL comes from the inner ear (cochlea) rather than the outer or middle ear.

-Most cases of SSNHL are viral, and most patients receive treatment with steroids. Patients with only mild degrees of hearing loss tend to recover.

-70 percent of SSNHL patients also experience tinnitus symptoms, and 50 percent also suffer from vertigo (dizziness).

-Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is usually unilateral (occurring in only one ear); only 2 percent of patients experience a sudden loss of hearing in both ears. It occurs in the left ear in 55 percent of cases.
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-Older adults have a higher chance of developing SSNHL. In 20 to 30-year olds, this condition affects 4.7 people out of 100,000; in 50 to 60-year olds, it affects 15.8 people out of 100,000.

-The incidence of SSNHL is the same in men and women.

Treating SSNHL

Before your sudden hearing loss can be treated, your doctor will first need to identify the cause of the loss. The evaluation will include a complete medical history, a physical exam, a hearing test, and laboratory and radiographic studies.

The good news is that, in 32 to 79 percent of cases of sudden hearing loss, patients recover spontaneously, typically within the first two weeks. In patients with severe hearing loss and patients who also have vertigo, the chances of full recovery are smaller. Treating SSNHL with steroids immediately greatly increases the chances of a full recovery. Studies also show that younger patients are more likely to make a full recovery from this type of hearing loss.

Despite the fact that sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a fairly common disease that has been researched heavily, this condition continues to be confounding for doctors and patients because the cause is still often unknown, and the prognosis is usually unclear.

Many patients with sudden hearing loss are initially misdiagnosed as having an ear infection or impacted earwax, which delays treatment. Prompt treatment has been proven successful in many cases, but some patients may not improve and may be left with permanent hearing loss.

Systemic steroid treatment is most common

In most cases, doctors prescribe steroids (cortisone) which are taken orally over the course of one to two weeks, as this is the most beneficial treatment for sudden hearing loss. Studies show that patients who begin this treatment within two to four weeks after the onset of the loss have the best chance of recovery. In some cases, an additional (“booster”) shot of steroids is injected directly into the ear. Injection allows higher doses of steroids to reach the inner ear fluids, but it does not lead to recovery of hearing in every case.

Sometimes, additional treatment is needed if doctors discover that the underlying cause of the hearing loss is a secondary medical issue.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants can help

In those patients who suffer a permanent hearing loss, options still exist. Being fitted with hearing aids or receiving a surgically implanted cochlear implant can assist greatly with amplification, hearing in background noise, understanding speech, locating the direction of sounds and reducing the burden of tinnitus.

At Hearing Consultants, our team will work with you to find the best treatment and get back to living the life you love.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test and consultation.

What is Single Sided Hearing Loss?

What is Single Sided Hearing Loss?

When hearing is lost in one ear, the symptoms can be life-changing. Unilateral hearing loss, or single sided deafness (SSD), is a prevalent and troubling condition affecting an estimated 60,000 new people each year in the United States alone. Here are some basic facts about single sided deafness, and the best treatments for this unique type of hearing loss.

Causes

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is defined as when hearing is normal in one ear but there is hearing loss in the other ear. The level of loss can range from mild to very severe, and it can occur in both adults and children. Approximately 1 out of every 1,000 children is born with UHL, and almost 3 percent of school-age children have this type of hearing loss.

Single-sided hearing loss can result from viral infections, Meniere’s disease, injuries to the ear or head, traumatic brain injuries, or surgical intervention to remove brain tumors. This type of hearing loss can also be caused by genetic or hereditary factors, or an outer, middle, or inner ear abnormality.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary, depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Having reduced hearing on one side makes it difficult for some people to locate the direction of sounds. This can make navigating city traffic more dangerous for those with unilateral hearing loss, especially if it is untreated. Difficulty with localization can also make it more challenging to listen in groups of people, and to be able to discern who is speaking at a given moment. Others may find it harder or impossible to hear sounds when they come from a certain direction. One of the most common symptoms, and perhaps the most frustrating in terms of conversation, is the lack of ability to understand speech in noisy situations. People with UHL also hear sounds quieter, meaning that they might have trouble hearing speech coming from another room.

For people who have not lived with unilateral hearing loss/single sided deafness, it is hard to understand the challenges faced, and the lifestyle changes that sometimes occur for those with this condition. Though many patients learn to live comfortably with a unilateral hearing loss, others struggle to cope in their normal environments such as office meetings, crowded restaurants or family get-togethers.

A lack of awareness about unilateral hearing loss means that many patients with UHL remain untreated, though life-improving treatments such as hearing aids are available.

Hearing solutions for single sided hearing loss

Just as those with hearing loss in both ears can benefit greatly from hearing aids, people with unilateral hearing loss can find help and relief in assistive hearing technology.

Some people with UHL may have good or perfect hearing in one hear, and others may have less-than-perfect hearing in their “good ear.” In either case, there are hearing aid options that can make day-to-day life easier and less stressful.

If you have profound deafness in one ear but some hearing in the other, there are three solutions to look into:

CROS hearing aid

CROS makes it possible for your good ear to hear for both of your ears. CROS stands for ‘Contralateral Routing of Signal’ and is composed of two parts:

The CROS has microphones which detect sounds and voices, which are then wirelessly transmitted to a hearing aid being used by the ‘good’ ear.
The hearing aid, after receiving the signal from the CROS, sends those sounds into your ‘good’ ear.

If your ‘good ear’ could also benefit from amplification, the hearing aid can function both as a hearing aid for that ear, and as a receiver for the CROS.

Bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA)

Bone conduction is the way we hear our own voices, and this hearing aid works in a similar way. A bone-anchored hearing aid works with an implant which transmits sound through bone to the inner ear, by conduction. This type of hearing aid requires surgery to fit the implant, but the external hearing aid can be removed anytime, for showering and sleeping.

Cochlear implant

A cochlear implant is a combination of parts which work together to make hearing easier. There is a behind-the-ear sound processor (which has a similar appearance to a large behind-the-ear hearing aid) and an antenna, which is attached by a lead to the processor and also attached magnetically to the implant (which is under the skin). The processor and antenna work together to send the sound to the implant, which is a tiny electronic receiver, surgically implanted in the temporal bone underneath the skin. The implant is able to amplify sounds by converting the sound waves it receives into electrical impulses, which then stimulate the hearing nerve and enable the brain to receive the sound.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

It is important to remember that unilateral hearing loss should be treated, just as with binaural hearing loss. Here at Hearing Consultants, we offer hearing solutions for people with single-sided hearing loss. Contact our team to learn more.