What are the causes of sudden hearing loss?

Sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss or sudden conductive hearing loss (depending on where in the ear is affected by the loss), is an unexplained, quick loss of hearing over a period of one or several days.

The loss usually occurs in one ear but it is not uncommon for it to occur in both ears. Although sudden hearing loss may be considered as a cause of a loss of hearing, it can also be considered as a symptom of a bigger problem. If you have suffered from sudden hearing loss, it is important to be checked out as soon as possible. We want to give you the best information possible about sudden hearing loss so you can know the symptoms, causes and the treatments available to you.[/intro]

Symptoms of sudden hearing loss can vary from person to person. In some cases, it can feel as if there is pressure in the ear, as if cotton wool were placed in the ear. In others, the feeling of the ear being closed, unable to let sounds pass through, is present. Sudden hearing loss can often be accompanied with Tinnitus, where you hear whistling, ringing or hissing instead of the sounds you would normally hear. Sudden hearing loss affects thousands of people worldwide but, as far as an origin for its cause, there is no one answer. In some cases, the loss may be due to physical and psychological factors that put your body, mind and hearing under pressure.

An example of sudden hearing loss is by that of Phil Collins, lead singer of Genesis and singer/songwriter of songs: “Against All Odds” and “In The Air Tonight”. During his time performing both as a solo artist and with Genesis, Collins was subject to loud music from speakers, earphones and from other loud environments that could be considered dangerous for the ears to be unprotected in. During a stint in America recording an album, Collins suffered from a sudden loss of hearing in his left ear. The stress of Collins’ busy schedule and exposure to loud music caused an infarction (sudden loss of hearing) in his inner ear; Collins’ took this as a warning to slow down a bit.

The sudden loss of hearing shouldn’t be taken lightly and, if it does happen to you, it is advised that you are checked out as soon as possible. Although a loss of hearing may not be top of a priority list when it comes to getting something seen to, the conditions the loss is related to should be. Recent studies in Taiwan have discussed the possibility that sudden hearing loss could be an indicator for an impeding stroke and that any loss of hearing should be seen to by an Audiologist and a full health check should be undergone (you can read more about Stroke and Hearing Loss in our Wellness Programme).

Among the known causes of sudden hearing loss, other than stress as we’ve already covered, are:

  • Wax – which can be easily removed at one of our Hearing Centres
  • Infections – infections can occur in different parts of your ears and can cause different symptoms. Included in these infections are; Labyrinthitis – inner ear infection, Meningitis – inner ear with possibility of permanent hearing loss.
  • Trauma – a head injury can cause sudden hearing loss if it directly affects the inner or middle ear. Loud sounds can also be classed as a trauma.
  • Ototoxic drugs – Drugs that can damage the inner ear. Some drugs that are used to treat cancer can cause sudden hearing loss if taken in large doses.
  • Meniere’s Disease – a condition in the inner ear that affects hearing loss, tinnitus and bouts of dizziness

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When it comes to treatment of hearing loss in general, the treatment plan can vary from case to case and due to the type of loss. In the cases of sudden hearing loss, treatments, again, can vary due to the cause of the hearing loss. Based in the history of the loss, hearing test findings, a decision can be made about the course of action that can be taken. In the case of infections, antibiotics can be taken to reduce any swelling and return the hearing to normal. If wax is the issue, the excess wax can be removed and hearing should return to normal. In cases where treatment to return the hearing to normal is not possible, a suitable solution may be the use of a hearing aid.

A hearing aid has the ability to help you distinguish the sounds around you so you find it easier to be present in noisy environments or simply talking with your loved ones. Hearing aids can be used for both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, with many different types and styles to choose from, you can choose one that suits you and your lifestyle perfectly.

If you’re worried about sudden hearing loss, please book an appointment or visit your local Hearing Centre online today to speak to one of our qualified Hearing Aid Dispensers.