Sudden Hearing Loss

What is sudden hearing loss?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), commonly known as sudden deafness occurs as a rapid loss of hearing over a short period of time. Sudden deafness usually happens in one ear and may be accompanied by tinnitus, vertigo, nausea and/or vomiting.

What causes sudden hearing loss?

Various theories have been proposed for the cause of sudden deafness, however, it’s specific aetiology and pathogenesis is unknown. 

Proposed theories include

  • Vascular occlusion
  • Immune-mediated mechanisms
  • Abnormal cellular stress responses within the cochlea
  • Breaks of the labyrinthine membrane and
  • Viral infections 

The most common cause of sudden deafness is one of viral nature. 

How is sudden deafness diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made with a complete diagnostic hearing assessment. This will confirm whether the sudden deafness is conductive or sensorineural in nature. Often sudden deafness can be confused for a conductive hearing loss or vice versa. Knowing the nature of the hearing loss will decide upon the patient’s rehabilitation pathway.

How is sudden deafness treated?

If a sudden sensorineural hearing loss is confirmed via diagnostic testing, it is strongly recommended to refer the patient to the emergency department of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital for urgent, acute treatment.

Where to get help?

If a sudden hearing loss is suspected, it is best to see a qualified audiologist for a hearing test immediately. Pure tone audiometry along with tympanometry will help to diagnose whether deafness is conductive or sensorineural in nature. In some instances, sudden deafness can be due to a conductive cause in which only watchful waiting is necessary. In these instances, further investigations or treatments may not be necessary. However, they may be crucial for instances of sensorineural deafness.

Our highly qualified audiologists at AudioHearing are experts at identifying the signs of sudden deafness. We can

  • Perform expert history taking, to ensure a full medical timeline is established
  • Perform full diagnostic testing
  • Have a detailed report written immediately after testing for an immediate visit to the
  • Emergency Department if a sudden sensorineural hearing loss is confirmed
  • Perform subsequent review assessments to quantify the effectiveness of any medical interventions 
  • Recommend a specific hearing aid tailored to the client’s individual needs and wants if there is residual hearing loss

Delaying the diagnosis and treatment of SSHL may decrease the effectiveness of treatment. It should be considered a medical emergency. 

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