Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) or sudden deafness is a loss of hearing over a short period of time; hours or days often with no obvious cause.
SSNHL is estimated to affect between 5-160 people per 100,000. It can be diagnosed through a hearing test.
Sudden hearing loss may be caused by wax build-up, middle ear fluid or infection, or head trauma. There are instances where this is not the cause, in those cases it may involve damage to the cochlear, or the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain.
It is extremely important to consult medical attention as soon as noticing there is a hearing loss present. The best chance for recovery from SSNHL is to begin treatment within the first 72 hours of hearing loss onset.
Typically it is a sudden loss in 1 ear. It may also be accompanied with dizziness, tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear), a feeling of fullness in the ear and things may sound dull or muffled.
Often the cause of a sudden loss of hearing is not known. It can be viral or vascular, a bleed to the inner ear or decreased blood supply to the inner ear. A virus or inflammation can disrupt the intricate workings of the cochlear- that is our “organ of hearing” which is responsible for converting the vibrations into electrical signals for the brain.
SSNHL can be very challenging and disconcerting, we have two ears to help us localise sound and hear well in background noise and the sudden loss of hearing in one ear can make communicating very difficult.
Treatment most commonly involves the use of steroids and the greatest efficacy results from the quickest administration possible. Some cases may get better without treatment but many do not. For this reason we always urge you to consult a medical professional for their opinion when noticing a change to your hearing.