Sudden Hearing Loss
If you are experiencing a sudden hearing loss take immediate action. Schedule a hearing test for sudden loss within 24-48 hours of the onset of the loss with an Audiologist. The Audiologist can determine the type of loss and recognize if an appointment with an Otolaryngologist or Nurse Practitioner specializing in Otolaryngology is warranted. In true sudden sensorineural hearing loss, time is of the essence in treatment options and possible recovery of the hearing loss.
It is best to contact the Otolaryngology department directly rather than waiting to see your primary physician. If you have already gone to the Emergency Room (ER) it may be prudent to follow up with the Otolaryngology department, as ER physicians and staff are not routinely trained in treatment for sudden hearing loss and are unable to determine if the loss is conductive or sensorineural. The audiologists, physicians, and nurse practitioners at Froedtert and the Medical College of WI’s Otolaryngology Department are trained to recognize the different types of sudden hearing loss that would benefit from immediate treatments that will greatly increase your chance of recovering some or all of your hearing.
Sudden Hearing Loss is defined as hearing loss occurring within 72 hours or less. About 1/3 of people affected by sudden hearing loss noticed it upon wakening in the morning. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is usually unilateral (meaning affecting one ear only). Bilateral (both ears) sudden hearing loss is rare, and simultaneous bilateral sudden hearing loss is very rare. A significant percentage of sudden hearing loss is accompanied by tinnitus (noises in the ear or head) and/or vertigo (sensation of room spinning). Sudden hearing loss occurs most frequently in persons 30 to 60 years of age. Males and females are equally affected by sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
Sudden hearing loss can be conductive or sensorineural. The most common cause of a conductive sudden hearing loss would be a head cold. In this type of sudden hearing loss it is often bilateral (both ears) and you may likely feel like your ears are “plugged”. Sudden hearing loss that is conductive in nature may take 1-2 days to occur, whereas sudden sensorineural hearing loss often occurs within minutes or an hour.
Sudden hearing loss due to injury or trauma to the ears or head should also be medically evaluated within 24-48 hours of the onset of the loss.