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28.02.2015
Sudden deafness or Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss or SSHL is unexplained rapid loss of hearing usually in one ear (but both the ears may be affected) over a period of few days. Research studies estimate that approximately 5,000 people are affected by sudden hearing loss every year.
Apprx 85-90% of those who visit an ENT Specialist may recover hearing capacity completely or partially. Few probable causes of SSHL (10-15% only) include blood circulation problems, tumor on the nerve pathway connecting the ear with the brain, infectious diseases, a traumatic injury, autoimmune diseases, specific drugs that are harmful for the inner ear, neurologic disorders like multiple sclerosis, and Meniere’s disease. Too often, patients detect sudden hearing loss in one ear right after waking up in the morning.
Steroids can be given in tablet form, by intravenous injection or direct injection in to ear drum (intratympanic corticosteroid therapy) In other cases, a cochlear implant may be used to improve hearing in the affected ear.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL) is a medical emergency defined as an individual experiencing at least 30 dB (decibels) of sensorineural hearing loss occurring over a time period of three days or less.
Sudden sensorineural hearing losses are most commonly associated with head trauma (such as a car accident), acoustic trauma (such as being too close to a gun or firecrackers when they explode), viral infections, tumors, decreased circulation to the inner ear, membrane breaks, medication for erectile dysfunction or ototoxic drug exposure.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects approximately 5-20 people per 100,000 population per year. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a complicated condition which must be fully evaluated by an otolaryngologist before a treatment plan can be established. Sudden sensorineural hearing losses requires immediate comprehensive medical examination and specialty care from an Otologist, who is an otolaryngologist (ENT) who has undergone two additional years of training and specializes in issues related hearing only. Click here to make an appointment with the California Ear Institute to consult with one of our board certified Otologists regarding your condition.


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As per a systematic review and meta-analysis both published in an issue of Archives of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, there is a very little evidence suggesting the usefulness of steroids while treating sudden hearing loss though steroids are considered to be one of the most widely used treatment options for treating sudden hearing loss. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be termed as an extreme hearing impairment condition that involves loss of hearing to a minimum of 30 decibels over at least three test frequencies in a matter of three days.
For the systematic review, 21 trials were identified and evaluated, all of which used measures from hearing tests to define treatment outcomes.
This includes the article cited as the landmark study for the use of steroids, which was not described as a randomized trial and therefore may have produced exaggerated treatment effects, the authors note. It was remarked that systemic steroids cannot be assumed to be the golden treatment standard for treating sudden sensorineural hearing loss because of the severe complications of the landmark study supporting their use. A patient suffering from SSHL should consult an ENT specialist as quickly as possible to diagnose and start the treatment. SSHL affects people between 30 and 60 years of age and a patient mostly notice the problem soon after waking up in the morning. Many cases go unreported because people recover automatically without any medical intervention.
If you suddenly notice partial or full deafness in one of your ears, immediately visit an ENT doctor. The sudden hearing loss develops when the cochlea in the inner ear, or the nerves connecting the ear and the brain get damaged. Moreover, patients can also notice the problem while using the affected ear for headphones or phone calls.


If the test results demonstrate a loss of at least 30 decibels in three different frequencies, then this condition is diagnosed as SSHL.
Hearing loss caused by an ear infection, sinus infection, or wax build up is conductive in nature and is generally temporary.
With appropriate medical treatment and therapy, individuals with SSHL can make a partial or even full recovery. The authors suggest that this study also used inconsistent doses of steroids and did not measure outcomes at the same time for all participants. Some others may notice the hearing problem when they try to use the affected ear for some purpose, for example, while talking on the phone. Many times, people suffering from the above symptoms delay visiting a doctor assuming they have allergies, sinus infection, or ear wax. The numbers below represent the softest intensity that sound delivered in decibels is perceived by an individual tested with pure tone air conduction testing. People suffering SSHL may also get dizzy, hear ringing sound inside their ears (tinnitus), or hear a loud pop!



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