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Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss

Sudden hearing loss or deafness can happen quickly or over period of days. A hearing loss of 30 decibels or more is considered sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Most often, the sudden hearing loss only affects one ear. Although most patients and their health care providers do not know exactly what caused the sudden hearing loss, some causes may include trauma; abnormal tissue growth; infectious or immunological diseases; certain medications; toxic causes, such as a snake bite; problems with circulation; neurological causes; or other disorders of the ear.

Most people recover from sudden hearing loss, especially if they receive medical treatment immediately. Treatment may include antibiotics (if a specific disease is identified); steroids (to reduce inflammation); cessation of any medication that may have caused the hearing loss; and a low-salt diet.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a medical disorder that affects nearly 36 million adults in the United States. Impaired hearing may be caused by many things.

  • Older people are the largest group affected by hearing loss. The contributors range from excessive noise, drugs, viral or bacterial infections, head injury or head tumors, stroke, and heredity. One in three older adults over age 60 has hearing loss. Nearly half of people ages 75 to 85 have hearing loss.
  • Diseases and disorders that contribute to hearing loss include tinnitus, presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), and Usher's syndrome (a condition that causes both hearing and vision loss), among others.

Treatment for hearing loss:

In some patients, hearing loss can be surgically corrected. For others, medical devices and rehabilitation therapies often can help reduce hearing loss.

To determine the exact cause of your hearing loss, and how it can be managed, contact your health care provider for a complete medical examination. If you suspect you have hearing loss, answer these questions suggested by the National Institutes of Health:

  • Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
  • Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time?
  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do you have to strain to understand conversation?
  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?
  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  • Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
  • Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?
  • Do you hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?  

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may want to see an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist), or an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.

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