Sudden Hearing Loss
What is "sudden sensorineural hearing loss" (SSHL)?
SSHL occurs when a persons experiences sudden hearing loss within a short period of time. For example, many patients will go to bed hearing "fine" and when they wake up in the morning realize they are unable to hear out of one ear. Some patients will describe an alarming "pop" just before their hearing disappears. People with sudden deafness often become dizzy, have ringing in their ears (tinnitus), or both.
SSHL should be considered a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Someone who experiences SSHL should contact their family doctor immediately or call their Audiologist to explain what has happened. 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, delaying SHHL diagnosis and treatment may decrease the effectiveness of treatment.
Medical recommendations and treatment for SSHL of unknown origin is typically a prescription of Corticosteroid and Antiviral agents. Corticostgeroids are the primary anti-inflammatory agents used to treat SSHL of unknown origin. The mechanism of action in sudden hearing loss is unknown, although reduction of cochlear and auditory nerve inflammation is the presumed pathway. However, the value of steroids in the treatment of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss remains unclear. Antiviral agents such as famciclovir and valacyclovir are commonly recommended if the sudden hearing loss may have been a result of a virus as it affects the viral thymidine kinase. They inhibit viral DNA polymerase, preventing viral DNA replication. Diuretics may also be recommended if the assumption that some episodes of SSHL are secondary to cochlear endolymphatic hydrops, diuretic therapy has been used as treatment.