If you wake up one morning and find that the hearing in one of your ears is considerably reduced, you may be experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), which develops in approximately 4,000 adults in the United States each year. The good news is that if they get quick treatment, 50% of these people do recover their hearing.
At Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates, we have a team of dedicated audiologists who work with their patients in Lawrence, Topeka, and Ottawa, Kansas, by promptly intervening and getting them the help they need.
If you suspect that you might be experiencing SSHL, here’s what you should look out for and what you should you do.
While the signs of sudden hearing loss may seem obvious — a loss of hearing — it might be helpful to review what constitutes a significant hearing loss. We diagnose SSHL when you’ve lost 30 or more decibels of hearing across three connected frequencies. To put this in layman’s terms, a decibel measures the loudness and a frequency measures the soundwaves. So, if someone is speaking to you in a normal voice, yet you’re only registering a whisper, you’ve likely lost more than 30 decibels of hearing.
This same effect is heard (or not) throughout different frequencies, so a high-pitched whistle becomes harder to hear, and a low murmur is barely audible at all.
The only way to know the extent of your hearing loss is to come in and have us conduct some tests to determine how many frequencies are affected and how many decibels you’ve lost.
SSHL typically develops within 72 hours and affects one ear, though it can develop in both ears. Alongside your sudden loss of hearing you may experience tinnitus, which can present as a ringing, buzzing, or roaring sound in your ears that doesn’t come from an external source.
You may also develop other vestibular symptoms including dizziness and vertigo. Some people with SSHL feel imbalanced or disoriented in addition to their hearing loss.
The bottom line is that if you’re experiencing any sudden hearing loss, as well as any of the symptoms listed above, you should come see us as soon as possible.
The exact cause of SSHL remains a mystery, but there’s ample evidence to link it to infections in your inner ear, as well as circulatory problems that affect your inner ear. For example, an accident may lead to SSHL, as well as circulatory problems that deprive your ears of much-needed oxygen-rich blood. Researchers have found that people who are obese have higher incidences of SSHL because their circulation is already compromised to some extent.
When the circulation to your ears is cut off, the sensory hairs in your inner ear can be permanently damaged, leading to hearing loss.
Again, experts aren’t entirely clear about the cause of SSHL, but we do know that the condition responds to certain treatments that restore circulation.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is to seek prompt attention when you experience sudden hearing loss. When you come in, we can measure your hearing loss, review your symptoms, and take a look at your medical history to pinpoint what the problem may be. Once we have a clear picture of your health and the extent of your hearing loss, we can get you started on a treatment right away to restore your hearing.
If you’re experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss, please give us a call sooner rather than later. Or you can schedule an appointment by using the online booking tool on this website.