Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss


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As the name suggests, sudden hearing loss (also called sudden sensorineural hearing loss or SSHL) can happen seemingly out of nowhere. The loss of hearing can be immediate, but it can also happen slowly throughout hours or even days.

Typically, hearing loss is categorized as sudden if it happens over a period of 72 hours or less. Most people experience the hearing loss in only one ear, and it is often accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ear.) With SSHL, the loss of decibels- which measure loudness - can make a normal speaking voice sound like a whisper. The severity of SSHL varies from person to person, but since it can be a very serious and possibly permanent condition, it is considered a medical emergency and should be immediately evaluated by a doctor. There are a variety of reasons that sudden hearing loss happens, so even if you think you know the cause it’s important for your doctor to properly diagnose the problem. SSHL can be the result of an infection, a head injury or trauma, prolonged exposure to loud noises, or neurologic conditions like multiple sclerosis. Other commons causes include:

  • A structural abnormality within the inner ear

  • Diseases that affect the immune system

  • Meniere disease (which specifically affects the inner ear)

  • Lyme disease (transmitted through tick bites)

  • Problems related to blood circulation

  • Tumors or other abnormal tissue growth

  • Ototoxic medications (those that can cause harm to the delicate systems that make up the ear)

  • Blood vessel diseases

  • Venom from a snake bite

  • Aging

At the onset of SSHL you may notice balance problems or dizziness, trouble following conversations or muffled dialogue, inability to hear during background noise, or difficulty hearing high-pitched noises. Babies can also be born with SSHL, and young children may develop the condition if they suffer from frequent ear infections. If you believe you are experiencing sudden hearing loss, call your doctor immediately – prompt treatment can help prevent long term or permanent hearing loss. For more information on hearing loss or to make an appointment with a hearing specialist, call Marvel today: 931-230-7056.

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