advertisement

Hearing management

14 December 2018

Why sudden hearing loss should not be ignored

What you might think is temporary hearing loss may actually be a serious medical condition.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) is a type of hearing loss that occurs suddenly in the inner/middle ear.

Patients usually notice a decline in their hearing after hearing a sudden “pop” or after waking from a night’s rest.

This loss of hearing is most often unexplainable as only 10% of cases have been linked to other conditions and illnesses.

Patients usually put off seeing the doctor after experiencing this hearing loss as they think it is something that will pass. This is, however, a big mistake.

Immediate attention

According to a recent study, SSHL occurs in every 20 per 100 000 people, 90% of whom experience SSHL in only one ear.

Some babies are born with SSHL as a result of genetic factors. 

Symptoms of SSHL can include muffled sounds, dizziness, loss of balance, difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, not being able to isolate certain sounds if there’s a lot of background noise, and tinnitus. Tinnitus is a constant buzzing and ringing sound in your ears.

Doctors recommend that you immediately see your GP or ear, nose and throat specialist. Putting off getting your hearing checked puts you at greater risk of it not returning to normal.

According to Health 24 expert Dr Kara Hoffman, “It is vital to have your hearing tested immediately, and the earlier you can attend to it by stimulating the nerves and brain, the better the outcome.”

Treatment 

Research suggests that SSHL be attended to and treated within 24–48 hours. Even then the chance of recovering one’s hearing is only 50%. The American Hearing Research Foundation notes that should one wait more than two weeks before attending to the hearing loss, recovering one’s hearing is close to 0%.

The difficulty about SSHL is that you may mistake it for being a temporary hearing loss. You may think that it is simply an earwax or fluid blockage that will clear in a couple of days. The problem is that the symptoms in both cases are pretty much the same. That is why any kind of hearing loss needs to be checked, just in case it's something more serious. 

If you suffer from an ear infection, head trauma, blood circulation issues, Ménière’s disease or neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis you may be subject to SSHL.

Doctors commonly treat SSHL by injecting steroids into the inner ear. The steroids help to reduce any swelling and inflammation that may have occurred in the ear.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules