The Art of Hearing

sudden deafness

What causes sudden deafness?

Hearing loss, and especially age-related hearing loss, is something that usually occurs gradually over time. However, in certain cases, patients have reported experiencing sudden deafness over a rapid period of just three days or less. This is known as sudden hearing loss, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and is defined as a hearing loss of more than 30 decibels over at least three frequencies and within 72 hours. This type of hearing loss can vary in severity from patient to patient and will commonly affect only one ear. So what causes sudden deafness? And how is it treated?

What causes sudden deafness?

Each individual case of sudden deafness is unique, and there is no single underlying cause for all patients. Some patients report waking up with sudden hearing loss, whereas for others sudden deafness will take its toll over a rapid period within several days. Some of the most common causes of sudden hearing loss include:

  • Infectious diseases – Many patients who have experienced sudden deafness also report having had a viral infection prior to their hearing loss symptoms. Infections that have been associated with sudden hearing loss include mumps, measles, rubella, meningitis and more.
  • Head/ear injury – Sudden deafness can also be triggered by trauma to the head or ear.
  • Tumours – Hearing loss can be caused by a tumour on the nerve connecting the brain to the auditory system.
  • Ototoxic drugs – Certain prescription drugs and the overuse of painkillers have been known to cause damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear, in turn triggering sudden hearing loss.
  • Problems with circulation – Sudden deafness can also occur when vascular disorders cause problems with the blood flow to the ear.

How is sudden hearing loss diagnosed and treated?

In some cases, patients will spontaneously recover from sudden deafness (in full or partially) within a matter of one or two weeks. However, sudden hearing loss should be considered as an urgent matter – one that warrants an audiological evaluation at the earliest possible time, as treating the hearing loss sooner will lead to a higher chance of recovery.

To diagnose sudden deafness, your audiologist or doctor will need to evaluate your medical history and perform a physical examination. This will help to identify whether the sudden deafness is a sensorineural deficit. If you have been diagnosed with sudden hearing loss, your doctor may carry out further tests to identify potential causes of your condition, including blood tests and imaging.

One of the most common treatments for sudden deafness is the prescription of systemic steroids either by injection or in pill form. In some cases – and depending on the underlying causes of the hearing problem – your audiologist may also recommend hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Get your hearing checked today

If you’re experiencing signs of hearing loss, diagnosing the problem early could help lessen the impact of your hearing problem on your quality of life. At The Art of Hearing clinics in Perth, our WA audiologists are committed to helping our clients find an effective hearing solution that suits your individual needs and lifestyle. Organise an appointment with our Perth audiologists today to take the first step towards better hearing.

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