Updated: Oct 17, 2022
About 1 in every 5,000 adults experience sudden hearing loss in the United States, although the number is probably much higher due to the number of cases that go unreported or misdiagnosed.
SUDDEN SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS (SSHL) IS AN EMERGENCY FOR WHICH ONE MUST SEE A KNOWLEDGEABLE EAR, NOSE, AND THROAT SPECIALIST LIKE DR. KHETARPAL. FOR BEST OUTCOMES IT IS BEST TO SCHEDULE THAT APPOINTMENT WITHIN 24-48 HOURS OF THE LOSS.
Dr. Umang Khetarpal goes over the symptoms, causes, treatments, and what you can do if you experience Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) in order to prevent permanent hearing damage.
What is Sudden Hearing Loss?
When an ear that had a normal hearing or partial hearing loss suddenly loses more hearing over a span of minutes to hours, it is called sudden hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss may be associated with ringing or buzzing in the affected ear and even vertigo or dizziness with or without a headache. Occasionally sudden hearing loss may occur with migraines. There may be an echo-type sound in the ear and the ear may feel plugged. Sometimes there is pain associated with it.
Types of Sudden Hearing Loss
There are two types of sudden hearing loss, one called conductive, related to a problem in the ear canal or middle ear, and the other sensorineural or inner-ear related.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss may be related to the ear canal being plugged with wax or liquid or pus behind the eardrum or from ear injury.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is thought to be related to a viral infection of the inner ear or its nerve although other ideas such as occlusion of blood vessels to the inner ear are also considered possible. It can occur in meningitis or rarely from bleeding into a tumor of the hearing nerve or swelling of the tumor. Rarely leukemia can involve the ear causing sudden hearing loss.
What Is The Most Common Presentation of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
The most frequent presentation of sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs is usually a sudden sensorineural loss in one ear, without any other symptoms except for tinnitus and pain. Some have vertigo or dizziness.
How is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
An office exam and a hearing test called audiometry are necessary to diagnose this condition. This is an emergency and any delay in presentation or treatment can result in losing the opportunity to possibly restore or improve hearing
How is SSHL Treated?
There are many different ideas on treating sudden sensorineural hearing loss and different doses but the uniform agreement and guideline are to treat it with oral steroids such as prednisone or methylprednisolone. Steroids injected into the ear, also called intratympanic steroid injection or chemical labyrinthotomy is an important addition to the oral steroid treatment. Some prefer one injection of dexamethasone or methylprednisolone into the affected ear, others prefer more than one. At our practice, we follow a specific protocol that involves both intratympanic steroids and oral steroids. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered a second-line treatment in the US and may be strongly considered as an adjunct to steroids in an individual who has lost hearing in one ear and now presents with sudden hearing loss in the only hearing ear. Some consider using blood thinners but the science behind that is weak. Oral antiviral drugs have been used but have not been found to be beneficial in some studies and are therefore not considered guidelines.
The best likelihood of improvement is when patients present very early after the sudden loss of hearing.
Is the Ear Steroid Injection Done in The Office?
Yes. The ear injection is done with a tiny needle and after the steroid is infused in the ear, the affected ear is placed on top for about 15 minutes to let the steroid diffuse into the inner ear.
What Is The Purpose of The Steroids?
Their purpose is to reduce inflammation that is thought to cause hearing loss.
Does Insurance Pay For The Ear Steroid Treatment?
Some insurances do, others may not. It is best to check with the specialist’s office staff to assess your payment for that treatment.
Have you lost hearing in one or both ears? Book an appointment immediately. Same day and next day appointments available!
Call (832) 990-2700 or click here to request an appointment online.
Dr. Khetarpal accepts most major insurance plans and is accepting new patients in The Woodlands and in The Heights. Make an appointment with one of Houston's Top ENTs
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