Sudden Hearing Loss

What to do if you are experiencing sudden hearing loss​
1. Most people experiencing Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss will notice it on, or soon after waking. It may be in one ear - or both.
  • You will notice a loss in your hearing in one ear - or both.

  • You may experience a loud 'pop' - or you might not.

  • Sounds may fade away over the course of a few minutes.

  • You may feel what's often described a 'fullness' in the ear.

  • You may feel some dizziness or feel slightly disorientated.

  • Things may sound a bit echoey.

  • You may experience tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing or pulsing sound in the ear).

 

 

2. This is a medical emergency. Go straight to your A&E department and ask to see the emergency ENT doctor who specialises in hearing loss.

It is imperative that you are seen immediately as you may need to start immediate treatment.

  • Don't forget, some ENT specialists are specialists in 'Nose' and 'Throat'. Make sure you see an 'Ear' specialist.

 

  • Don't be afraid to ask the person you are seeing if they have had any experience of treating sudden hearing loss - and to ask for someone who has.  

  • 85 to 90% of cases of SSHL have no known cause and steroid treatment is the cause of action in these cases.

 

 
3. If you are not offered steroid treatment, please show the links below to your consultant and ask that they prescribe you oral steroids or send to someone who can give you steroid injections into your ear. 
  • There is a 14-day window of opportunity for this treatment so, act quickly!

  • Some doctors may advise waiting to see if the hearing spontaneously recovers without treatment but, this is your hearing so, you should decide what's best for you.

  • If spontaneous recovery is to occur, it usually takes place in the first two weeks after the sudden loss.

  • Hear-it.org/Sudden-hearing-loss-can-be-treated-with-steroid-injection

  • Treatment of SSHL with Corticosteroids

  • Oral steroid treatment for idiopathic SSHL

 
4. Ask about hyperbaric oxygen treatment
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

  • Hyperbaric oxygen as a method of therapy of sudden sensorineural hearing loss 

  • Hyperbaric oxygen for sudden hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) of unknown cause

 

 
5. Check out the Facebook groups listed below to connect with others who have experience of sudden hearing loss.
  • Sudden Hearing Loss Support Group 

  • Sudden Hearing Loss Syndrome 

  • Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) 

 
Useful links for people with sudden hearing loss​
  • ​​​Hear-it.org/Sudden-Hearing-Loss

  • Hear-it.org/Sudden-hearing-loss-can-be-treated-with-steroid-injection

  • Article on the treatment of SSNHL

  • Sudden Deafness - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (US Department of Health website)

  • Treatment of SSHL - Corticosteroids

  • Oral steroid treatment for idiopathic SSHL

  • Hyperbaric oxygen as a method of therapy of sudden sensorineural hearing loss 

  • Hyperbaric oxygen for sudden hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) of unknown cause

  • Sudden hearing loss - treatments

  • Medscape article - treatment

  • Steroid treatments

  • Phonak  CROS for single-sided hearing

  • Single-sided hearing and you

  • Sudden Hearing Loss Support Group - Closed Facebook Group

  • Sudden Hearing Loss Syndrome - Closed Facebook Group

  • Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) - Closed Facebook Group

Please note:

I am not a medical professional or hearing care specialist. The resources I have supplied are offered as peer support from one person with single-sided hearing to another. If you have concerns about your hearing, please see a hearing care professional.

My experience of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss 

By Angie Aspinall

(First published on Hearing Like Me

 

 

One day in April 2011, I lost all the hearing in my left ear between the time I woke up and lunchtime. I was already severely deaf in my right ear and I had mild hearing loss in my left ear as a result of a hereditary condition called otosclerosis. I used a hearing aid in my left ear every day, but rarely used the hearing aid in my right ear, because I felt the volume level necessary to make it of use to me caused me to have horrendous tinnitus. On this particular day, I woke up feeling a little woozy, and when I spoke, my voice sounded louder on my right side (my deafer side) than usual.

 

For a few moments I thought a miracle was happening and that I was getting the hearing back in my right ear. (I once heard about a man whose hearing had been miraculously restored after travelling on a ski lift and I still hoped for a similar miraculous recovery.) I could feel something at the base of my skull, which felt like icy cold water trickling down my neck. It then felt as though something was shifting at the base of my skull – a movement of some kind like when you see those worms that have embedded into someone’s skin – but this wasn’t a wriggling movement, more of a shift of a mass.

 

It was undeniably scary, but I still went to work. I started to get a really painful headache and I took some painkillers. I answered the phone to take a call from a colleague. I had an amplified phone with a volume control and I kept turning it up but to no avail: the caller’s voice simply faded away. To this day, I can’t remember who was on the phone or exactly what I said but I think I just kept saying that I couldn’t hear them.

 

I sent a text message to my husband and said I felt worse and that I thought something serious was happening and asked if he would take me to the emergency room. He came straight away and we dashed to the hospital.

 

In the waiting room, my hearing further disappeared. I changed the batteries on my hearing aid twice before accepting that the last of my hearing had disappeared while I was waiting to see the doctor.  I felt like I was underwater or in a bubble, cut off from the outside world around me: it was like watching TV with the volume muted.

 

“It was like watching TV with the volume muted.”

 

The doctor who examined me said it was ‘just an ear infection.’ I worked out this is what he said by lipreading him: he made no attempt to write down anything he was saying, despite me repeatedly saying, “I can’t hear you. I don’t know what you’re saying.”

 

I told him I thought I might be having a brain haemorrhage (because of the trickling sensation I’d felt and the fact that by now, my head felt like it was going to explode).  He refused to send me for an MRI or CT scan and, instead, I was given an appointment to see an ENT consultant the following week. Apparently, no one was available in the ENT department to see me that day. This was the single most terrifying day of my life: I couldn’t hear what was being said; I thought I was having a brain haemorrhage; and, I was being sent away without any help or a proper diagnosis.

 

I never made it to the ENT appointment the following week because, as soon as I got home, I started to suffer with vertigo and nausea that lasted for several days.  

 

Because of the vertigo, my husband had to cancel the ENT appointment. I later read that if I would have been given steroid injections into my ear in the first few days following the sudden deafness, it may have helped restore my hearing up to 70%. When the medicine from my GP settled the vertigo and nausea, I tried to get an ENT appointment, but by then I was considered as a ‘non-emergency’ and had to abide by the normal rules – a referral from a General Practitioner, and months of waiting. 

 

During those months, I could hear nothing at all in my left ear as a result of the sudden deafness. (I could already hear virtually nothing in my right ear except very loud very high pitch sounds such as sirens internal sounds such as my own voice and swallowing sounds.) As you can imagine, it was a very distressing and isolating time.

 

I kind of knew the hearing loss in my left ear was going to be permanent and I suffered several panic attacks worrying about what my life would be like if I lost the rest of the hearing in my other ear just as suddenly.

 

About four months after the sudden deafness, I still hadn’t had an appointment at my local ENT department, so I searched for an emergency ENT clinic at a hospital in a nearby city. A hearing test there confirmed that I had indeed suffered sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

 

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss is considered to

have occurred when the loss is greater than

30dB in three connected frequencies.

 

My loss was, greater than 30dB: the loss was profound and I registered no hearing at all in my left ear.

 

85 to 90% of sufferers are found to have no known cause for their hearing loss. (This is described as ‘idiopathic’).

 

Only 10 to 15% of people diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss have an identifiable cause. The most common identifiable causes are:

 

  • Disorders of the inner ear

  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Infectious diseases

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Blood circulation disorders

  • Neurologic diseases and disorders

  • Head injury

  • Acoustic neuroma (non-cancerous tumour)

  • Malaria (and anti-malaria drugs)

 

My loss was described as idiopathic. One doctor hypothesised I had experienced a brain bleed, and another said it was possibly the result of a viral ear infection picked up from using a telephone receiver that had been used by someone already infected with the virus. The likelihood is that I will never know for sure the cause of my sudden deafness.

 

If spontaneous recovery is to occur, it usually takes place

in the first two weeks after the sudden loss.

 

My hearing did not spontaneously recover within 14 days, and the ENT consultant I saw (4 months after the loss had occurred) confirmed that the hearing loss was permanent.

 

I was told the ‘next step’ was for me to consider being fitted with a cochlear implant. I went into shock – and I think my husband did too. I hadn’t realised up until that point that there was no corrective surgery available for my condition, and that the prognosis was going to involve an implant, but the way she hesitated before answering my husband when he asked, “What next?”, meant I knew what she was going to say.

 

Sadly, at the point of being told I needed to consider a cochlear implant, I was given no further information about the device or the procedure. I wasn’t shown a cochlear implant or told anything about how they worked or their success rate. (I have since met people who have had successful surgeries and I know more about the procedure. I’ve held an implant and processor and learned what the surgery involves and it allayed my fears, but at that time I was not keen on the idea of surgery for an implant.)

 

Instead of accepting that an implant was the only possible solution for me, I carried out some research on the Internet and I discovered the Phonak CROS: a tiny hearing aid with a microphone but without a receiver in the ear. It sits on the deaf ear and the sends a wireless signal to the hearing aid on the other side. 

 

After seven months of living with virtually no sound at all, I eventually got a CROS hearing system and got my life back. You can read about my Phonak CROS ‘switch on’.  

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