Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) is just what the name suggests, a sudden onset of hearing loss in one or both ears. It is considered a medical emergency. If you seek medical treatment quickly, your hearing may be able to be restored. It is estimated that 5,000 people experience SSHL per year. SSHL often has no known etiology but the most common causes are infection, head trauma or Autoimmune disease. Occasionally, some ototoxic medications can cause SSHL.
SSHL is diagnosed by a hearing test as well as ruling out wax or fluid in the ear canal and middle ear space. Doctors will often also recommend blood tests, imaging scans and balance testing.
SSHL is usually treated by corticosteroids by a medical doctor. These steroids will help reduce inflammation and help the body to fight illness. The medication can be given orally (pill form) or transtympanic (injection through the ear drum). The sooner a treatment is started, the more likely it will be successful. Ideally, treatment is started within 24-48 hours of the hearing loss. 30-70% of those with SSHL will be left with permanent hearing loss. If you wake up in the morning and feel you cannot hear, it is vital you seek medical treatment, preferably by an Otolaryngologist (Ear Nose Throat physician).