What Happens When You’re Diagnosed With Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)?

We had one patient come into the clinic in a panic. She – let’s call her Rose – called the day before complaining that she’d suddenly gone deaf in one ear and couldn’t understand why. We booked an appointment for her the following day. After the preliminary tests and evaluations, we found that she was suffering from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss or SSHL.

When you are diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss, you may experience sudden and significant hearing loss in one or both ears. SSHL also comes with other symptoms like dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or feeling fullness in the affected ear. Often, because there is no prior experience with hearing loss, a lot of SSHL sufferers would dismiss their condition as tinnitus. Then, they would assume that the unpleasantness they are feeling will be gone in a few hours. 

In this blog post, we’ll give you a general idea of what sudden sensorineural hearing loss is. We’ll explain why it’s vital to seek medical attention immediately when you suddenly go deaf in one or both of your ears. We’ll list a few things we can do together to get you on the road to treatment or recovery.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: What Kind Of Hearing Condition Is It?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SSHL, is the abrupt loss of hearing. It can happen in one ear, or both. This sudden hearing loss can happen within a few hours or over up to 3 days. It is usually caused by damage to the inner ear, the auditory nerve, or both. There are two types: 

1. Symptomatic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This type of sudden sensorineural hearing loss is associated with a specific cause, such as a head injury, viral infection, autoimmune disease, or circulation problems.

2. Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: It is typically a sudden onset of hearing loss without any known trigger or underlying medical condition. Also known as sudden deafness, the cause of hearing loss of this type is unknown. Theories have been put forward and medical professionals have proposed sudden changes in air pressure, auditory membrane damage, or even viral cochleitis.

SSNHL can be a frightening and concerning experience, and it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience sudden hearing loss.

Identifiable Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss (SSNHL) And Its Symptoms

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is a rapid loss of hearing that occurs in a short period, typically within 72 hours. The exact cause of SSNHL is often unclear, but possible causes may include viral infections, vascular problems, inner ear problems, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications. 

In some cases, the cause of SSNHL may not be visible or identifiable. The degree of hearing loss in SSNHL can vary, but it is often significant and may affect one or both ears. Some individuals may experience a complete loss of hearing, while others may only have a partial loss.

Identifiable causes of SSNHL may include recent viral infections, such as the flu or a cold, as well as vascular issues like blood circulation problems in the ear. In some cases, head trauma from a fall or injury can also lead to SSNHL. Additionally, certain medications, such as high doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or certain antibiotics, may also contribute to the development of SSNHL.

On the other hand, some cases of SSNHL may be caused by autoimmune diseases, where the body’s immune system attacks the inner ear. In these instances, the cause is not visible or easily identifiable through standard testing.

What are the Symptoms of SSHL?

Common symptoms of SSNHL include a sudden onset of hearing loss, dizziness or vertigo, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the affected ear. Some individuals may also experience difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.

After being diagnosed with SSHL, the individual should seek immediate medical attention from an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist or audiologist. Treatment typically involves a combination of corticosteroids, antiviral medication, or other medications, depending on the suspected cause of the SSHL. In some cases, additional testing such as MRI or blood tests may be conducted to determine the underlying cause of the hearing loss.

Individuals diagnosed with SSHL need to seek prompt medical treatment, as early intervention can improve the chances of restoring some or all of the lost hearing. However, it’s also important to note that hearing loss may become permanent in some cases despite treatment efforts. Rehabilitation and coping strategies, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, may be necessary to help the individual adapt to their hearing loss. 

Prognosis: Your Chances of Recovery From Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The chances of recovery from sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) depend on various factors. The severity of the hearing loss, the underlying cause, and how quickly the condition is diagnosed and treated, are vital. It’s important to seek medical attention promptly if you experience sudden hearing loss, as early intervention may improve the chances of recovery.

Additionally, managing any underlying health conditions that may contribute to SSHL, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can also support recovery. While recovery from SSHL can vary, seeking timely and appropriate treatment can improve the chances of regaining some or all of the lost hearing.

Treatments and Therapies for SSHL

Treatment for this type of hearing loss may include corticosteroids, antiviral medication (if a viral infection is suspected), or other interventions aimed at addressing the underlying cause of the hearing loss. 

In some cases, patients may also benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room, to help improve blood flow and reduce inflammation in the inner ear.

Another treatment plan is steroid therapy. It is a common treatment for SSNHL. The goal of steroid therapy is to reduce inflammation and swelling in the inner ear, which can help to improve hearing. Steroids can be administered in several ways, including oral medications, injections into the middle ear, or through intravenous infusion. Timing is crucial and it is highly recommended to start treatment as soon as possible after the onset of SSNHL. Studies have shown that treatment within the first two weeks of symptoms has the best chance of improving hearing outcomes.

Additionally, hearing aids or cochlear implants may be recommended for patients with severe or permanent hearing loss.   

That is why seeking professional audiological services is highly important if you experience sudden hearing loss. A thorough evaluation by an otolaryngologist (or, an ear, nose, and throat specialist) is essential. They can determine the underlying cause of your hearing loss and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Getting Professional Help for Your SSHL

If you experience sudden hearing loss, it’s vital to seek immediate medical attention as soon as possible to increase the chances of regaining your hearing and effectively managing the impact of SSHL on your daily life. Early intervention is the key. SSHL can be a frightening and disorienting experience, but help from professional audiological services can make a significant difference in your recovery. 

If Rose hadn’t had her hearing checked immediately, she would never have known that it was SSHL. If she waited, that would have aggravated her hearing loss. So don’t wait – schedule an appointment with an audiologist today. Professional audiological services can make a real difference in your journey toward a full recovery. If you want to know more about SSHL, reach out by clicking on this link. Let’s first step to learning more about this disorder together.