What is classified as sudden hearing loss?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) or sudden deafness is when you lose your hearing very quickly, either immediately following an action or event, or over a period of between 1-3 days within which your hearing will quickly decline.

Signs of sudden hearing loss

Many people will notice that their hearing has been affected when they wake up in the morning, or they will realise that they are struggling to hear things like their telephone or their family members, when they could hear them perfectly well a day or two ago.

It’s common for sudden hearing loss to only present itself in one ear and depending on whether effective treatment is sought, it can last for as little as a few days to forever.

What causes sudden hearing loss?

There are many causes of sudden hearing loss, some of which are impossible to detect or even to diagnose.  However, we have listed a combination of the most well-known and least known causes, below:

1.  Earwax

A build-up of earwax can occur for several reasons, but it’s rare for this to lead to a blockage.  What tends to cause a blockage is when people attempt to remove earwax themselves at home, using something like a cotton bud/swab.  By pushing the wax further into the ear, more is created, which can create a blockage relatively quickly.  If the entire ear canal becomes blocked, this can lead to sudden hearing loss.  It is worth noting that olive oil ear drops are recommended before wax removal is performed to soften earwax.  However, on softening the earwax it can cause the earwax to expand and make the ear feel more blocked in the short term.

2.  Snake bites

Venom from snake bites have been known to bring about sudden hearing loss.  Whilst rare and not applicable to many types of snakes, if some species of snake’s venom gets into a person’s blood stream and circulated throughout the body, it can cause loss of hearing.

3.  Ear infections

Ear infections such as labyrinthitis and swimmer’s ear can cause sudden hearing loss.  In the case of labyrinthitis, this is usually brought about by a viral infection and so in addition to sudden hearing loss, people may also experience sudden nausea, vertigo and vomiting.  In the case of swimmer’s ear, the infection is caused by bacteria and would have to be left untreated for several days at least for the infection to become bad enough to cause a hearing loss inducing blockage in the ear canal.

4.  Prolonged loud noise

Many people experience sudden hearing loss following prolonged exposure to loud noise, such as at a live music festival or when working with loud machinery.

5.  Meniere’s disease

People who have Meniere’s disease can experience dizziness and vertigo, pressure in their ears and tinnitus.  Hearing loss can fluctuate, causing temporary or permanent loss of hearing in one or both ears.

6.  Ototoxic drugs

Some ototoxic drugs will damage the inner ear, especially if they are taken in large volumes over a short period of time.  A common situation that involves ototoxic drugs causing sudden hearing loss is when they are taken to treat cancer.

7.  Head trauma

Head trauma can present itself in the form of loud noises, which can cause sudden hearing loss, is if a person is close to a loud noise when it presents itself.  This could be an explosion or simply when someone shouts in their ear.

Head injuries can also cause sudden hearing loss, when the injury has an impact on the inside of the ear.  This can happen if a person hits their head or is involved in a high impact car accident.

8.   Acoustic neuromas

An acoustic neuroma is a growth which develops on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.  In most cases, hearing loss is gradual but, in some cases, an acoustic neuroma can cause sudden hearing loss.

Treatment for sudden hearing loss

Depending on what has caused sudden hearing loss, there are a range of treatments that can help with regaining hearing.

These include:

  • Corticosteroid injections into the middle ear
  • Antibiotics
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants

Specialists in treating sudden hearing loss

When sudden hearing loss is experienced it is important to seek medical advice urgently.  For expert help, when dealing with sudden hearing loss, contact our hearing specialists in Leicester and Market Harborough. Our audiologists can help diagnose exactly what is wrong with your ear and to find a solution to relieve your symptoms and encourage your hearing to return.

Contact our hearing loss experts on 0116 254 3909 or email us on [email protected]