A sudden hearing loss tends to be just that, very little warning, just a sudden event. However, not all sudden deafness is sensorineural (inner ear-related). There are two types of sudden hearing loss that may happen, they are:
- Sudden Conductive Hearing Loss
- Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sudden Conductive Hearing Loss
A conductive hearing loss is a hearing loss that is caused by a problem in either the middle ear or the outer ear. Sometimes a temporary sudden conductive hearing loss may occur caused by wax or middle ear infection. Both can generally be diagnosed and treated easily.
A clear indication that it may be wax is if the hearing loss occurs after a swim. a bath or a shower. Wax is like a sponge, it will soak up water very quickly, as it does it expands. If there is enough wax in the ear canal, it will expand enough to block the ear canal and cause issues with your hearing. Even if you think the cause of your sudden deafness is wax, get it checked quickly, don’t put it off.
A clear indication of a mid-ear infection being a cause of hearing loss is pain in the ear affected. Normally in a sudden sensorineural hearing loss, there is no pain. Again, even if you think it may be an infection, go and get attention. In fact, a mid-ear infection can cause real complications for hearing. The quicker it is treated, the better the outcome. You may have ringing in your ears (tinnitus) with a sudden conductive hearing loss.
Recovery From Sudden Conductive Deafness
Depending on what caused the conductive hearing loss, there may be spontaneous recovery within a week or two. If the problem is earwax, it probably won’t resolve itself without some sort of treatment to remove the wax blockage. If the problem is in the mid-ear and caused by some sort of eustachian tube problem, it may clear itself when the eustachian tube opens. If the problem is a viral infection of the mid-ear cavity, it will sort itself out after a week or two. However, if the infection becomes acute, you will need some sort of medical treatment.
Causes of Sudden Conductive Deafness
The possible causes of sudden conductive deafness include:
- Outer ear infection (Otitis Externa)
- Earwax blockage
- Middle ear infection (Otitis Media)
- Head injury causing ossicular chain damage (damage to the small bones in the middle ear cavity)
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)
Sensorineural hearing loss refers to an inner ear (cochlea) hearing loss, which is commonly known as nerve deafness. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) may be caused by a viral infection or some sort of cardiovascular event where the blood supply to the cochlea is reduced or temporarily cut off. The causes can be unclear, however, it needs to be diagnosed and treated quickly.
SSHL is defined as a greater than 30 dB hearing reduction, over at least three contiguous frequencies, occurring over a period of 72 hours or less. Some people report that their hearing loss was noticed immediately often in the morning. However, some report that their hearing loss developed over a period of hours or days.
Sudden Hearing Loss Needs To Be Treated As A Medical Emergency, Early Treatment (48 Hours) Gives Best Chance of Recovery In Cases of SSHL
Recovery From SSHL
The severity of this type of hearing loss often varies from one person to another, oddly enough, usually only one ear is affected at the beginning. However, it may spread to the second ear over time and research makes it clear that it often involves both ears. The issue really is that the symptoms of both types of loss can be very similar, this is why rapid investigation is needed. Rapid treatment for SSHL can mean almost total recovery, some people who develop SSHL may, in fact, recover totally without treatment, but many don’t, so why take the risk? As you will see further down the page, your level of fitness may also have a bearing on recovery even with treatment.
Causes of SSHL
There are varying thoughts about the underlying causes of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. It can be some sort of a cardiovascular event which impairs blood supply to the cochlea. However, there are many theoretical causes for sudden hearing loss which include infectious, circulatory, inner ear problems like Meniere’s disease, neoplastic, traumatic, metabolic, neurologic, immunologic and toxicity. Even after a thorough search for a possible cause, the cause of sudden hearing loss nearly always remains idiopathic (fancy term for we don’t have a clue) in most people. The possible causes are:
- Infectious diseases
- Trauma, such as a head injury
- Autoimmune diseases
- Ototoxic drugs (drugs that damage the inner ear)
- Blood circulation problems
- A tumour (auditory neuroma) on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain
- Neurologic diseases and disorders
- Disorders of the inner ear, such as Ménière’s disease
SSHL and Metabolic Syndrome
It appears that people with Metabolic Syndrome may have a worse recovery rate from a sudden sensorineural hearing loss than people without it. According to guidelines used by the medical profession, metabolic syndrome is present if an individual has three or more of the following traits or is taking medication to control them:
- Large waist circumference— a waistline that measures at least 35 inches (89 centimetres) for women and 40 inches (102 centimetres) for men
- High triglyceride level— 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 1.7 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), or higher of this type of fat found in blood
- Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol— less than 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L) in men or less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) in women of this “good” cholesterol
- Increased blood pressure— 130/85 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) or higher
- Elevated fasting blood sugar— 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or higher
SSHL in Children
It appears that younger children may have a poorer prognosis for recovery from SSHL in comparison to adolescents and adults. A limited study undertaken in Korea revealed a poorer recovery rate for children aged between 4 and 12 with SSHL. In the study, there was a marked variance in recovery rates between younger children and adolescents.
From Hearing Aid Know