Understanding Sudden Hearing Loss

Understanding Sudden Hearing Loss

In hearing health, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Sudden changes to your hearing can be alarming. If you’ve been hearing fine one day and feel like sounds around you are muffled the next day, it can be disconcerting and uncomfortable. You might wonder just how common sudden hearing loss is, and what you can do about it.

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is often a gradual process, where the sounds in your environment, unsafe listening practices, or the natural aging process slowly chip away at your hearing health over time. You’ll unconsciously be making small adjustments as your hearing slowly worsens, and it might be several months or years before you realize just how much of your hearing you’ve actually lost.

Sudden hearing loss, on the other hand, doesn’t creep up on you, but is a dramatic and obvious shift in your hearing abilities. Sudden hearing loss may be all at once or happen over a 72-hour period. Sudden hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or severe, and can be temporary or permanent. It often goes hand in hand with tinnitus, that annoying ringing or buzzing you hear in your ears in the absence of any external sounds.

What Causes Sudden Hearing Loss?

Sudden hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors. Illness or injury can affect the ear, damaging the ear or depriving the cells of the oxygen or nutrients they need to survive and thrive. If normal blood flow is restored, temporary hearing loss can be reversed, but if you’ve sustained a severe illness or injury, cells can be irreparably damaged or even die, and sudden hearing loss will be permanent.

Causes of sudden hearing loss include viral infections, sinus infections, circulatory disorders, diabetes or high cholesterol, cervical spine injury, autoimmune disorders, ear infections, earwax buildup, or stress. An extremely loud noise at close range can also lead to sudden hearing loss, and this type of hearing loss can also be a side effect of certain medications. Sudden hearing loss can also be idiopathic, or without an identifiable organic cause.

Most commonly, sudden hearing loss occurs in the absence of pain, so if you notice an uncomfortable pressure or pain in one or both of your ears, this could be a sign of a serious medical condition such as an injury or infection, and requires immediate medical attention. Ignoring sudden hearing loss doesn’t make it go away, so take charge of your health, and visit your primary health care provider as soon as possible to find out if there’s a clear medical reason for your temporary hearing loss and pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Sudden Hearing Loss

The most obvious sign of sudden hearing loss is the inability to hear clearly from one of both ears. Usually sudden hearing loss affects only one ear, and you may still hear sounds from this ear, though they will be muffled. Normal speech, for example, might sound like someone whispering. Some people even report hearing a loud popping sound right before they experience hearing loss.

Other symptoms often accompany sudden hearing loss, and these can start at once or within the first few days of your sudden hearing loss. Signs and symptoms of sudden hearing loss can include dizzy spells, a numbness around the ear, a feeling of pressure in the ear, and tinnitus.

Scheduling a Hearing Test

If you’ve noticed any sudden changes in your hearing, take it very seriously, and call us today at HearCare to schedule a hearing test. Sudden hearing loss can have a major impact on your quality of life, make it difficult to maintain quality standards at work, interfere with family communication, and even be a huge safety hazard.

Treating Hearing Loss

Whatever the cause of your hearing loss, and whether it’s affecting one or both ears, at HearCare we’ll help you find the perfect device that matches your hearing needs and will help you in the listening environments you find the most challenging, whether it’s on the jobsite, at Friday night drinks with friends, or enjoying Saturday afternoons in the park with your family. We’ll recommend a device that will improve your quality of life, and help you get back to the more important things in life.