Sudden deafness

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Overview

Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sudden sensorineural (“inner ear”) hearing loss (SSHL),

commonly known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained,

rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days.

SSHL happens because there is something wrong with

the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness

frequently affects only one ear.

People with SSHL often discover the hearing loss upon

waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when

they try to use the deafened ear, such as when they use

a phone. Still others notice a loud, alarming “pop” just

before their hearing disappears. People with sudden

deafness may also notice one or more of these symptoms:

a feeling of ear fullness, dizziness, and/or a ringing in their

ears, such as tinnitus. Sometimes, people with SSHL put off seeing a doctor

because they think their hearing loss is due to allergies,

a sinus infection, earwax plugging the ear canal, or

other common conditions. However, you should consider

sudden deafness symptoms a medical emergency and visit

a doctor immediately. Although about half of people with

SSHL recover some or all their hearing spontaneously,

usually within one to two weeks from onset, delaying

SSHL diagnosis and treatment (when warranted) can

decrease treatment effectiveness. Receiving timely treatment greatly increases the chance that you will

recover at least some of your hearing.

Experts estimate that SSHL strikes between one and six

people per 5,000 every year, but the actual number of

new SSHL cases each year could be much higher because

SSHL often goes undiagnosed.

Symptoms

Approximately nine out of 10 people with SSHL experience hearing loss in only one ear. You may notice hearing loss right after you wake up in the morning. You may also become aware of it when you use headphones or hold a phone to your affected ear. Sudden hearing loss is sometimes preceded by a loud popping sound. Other symptoms include:


trouble following group conversations

muffled conversation sounds

inability to hear well when there’s a lot of background noise

difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds

dizziness

balance problems

tinnitus, which occurs when you hear ringing or buzzing sounds in your ear

When to test your child’s hearing

Hearing loss can develop in children as a result of infections at birth or damage caused by ototoxic medications. It may not always be easy to know if your child is hearing correctly. You should have your child’s hearing tested if they:


don’t seem to understand language

don’t attempt to form words

don’t appear to startle at sudden noises or respond to sounds in a way you would expect

have had numerous ear infections or problems with balance

Causes

SSHL happens when the inner ear, the cochlea in the inner ear, or the nerve pathways between the ear and the brain become damaged.


Most of the time doctors don’t find a specific cause for unilateral SSHL. But, there are more than 100 causes of bilateral (both ears) SSHL. Some of the possible causes include:


malformation of the inner ear

head injury or trauma

prolonged exposure to loud noise

neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis

an immune system disease, such as Cogan syndrome

Meniere disease, which is a disorder that affects the inner ear

Lyme disease, which is an infectious disease that’s often transmitted through tick bites

ototoxic medication, which can harm the ear

venom from a snake bite

blood circulation problems

abnormal tissue growth or tumors

blood vessel disease

aging

Risk factors

Factors that may damage or lead to loss of the hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear include:


Aging. Degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time.

Loud noise. Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear. Damage can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises, or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot.

Heredity. Your genetic makeup may make you more susceptible to ear damage from sound or deterioration from aging.

Occupational noises. Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction or factory work, can lead to damage inside your ear.

Recreational noises. Exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. Other recreational activities with dangerously high noise levels include snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry or listening to loud music.

Some medications. Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on your hearing — ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss — can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs or loop diuretics.

Some illnesses. Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.

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Complications

Hearing loss can affect a person in three main ways: fewer educational and job opportunities due to impaired communication. social withdrawal due to reduced access to services and difficulties communicating with others. emotional problems caused by a drop in self-esteem and confidence.

Prevention

The following steps can help you prevent noise-induced hearing loss and avoid worsening of age-related hearing loss:

Protect your ears. Limiting the duration and intensity of your exposure to noise is the best protection. In the workplace, plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs can help protect your ears from damaging noise.

Have your hearing tested. Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. If you've lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.

Avoid recreational risks. Activities such as riding a snowmobile, hunting, using power tools or listening to rock concerts can damage your hearing over time. Wearing hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise can protect your ears. Turning down the music volume is helpful too.