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Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss means exactly what the words imply.  It is the sudden loss of hearing for some unexplained reason.  There are many causes, some serious, some not.  One or both ears may be affected.  An evaluation by an otologist is necessary to determine the exact cause and recommend appropriate treatment.  Some causes of sudden hearing loss are reversible, others are not.  Approximately 25,000 cases of these spontaneous or sudden hearing losses occur in the U.S. each year.  Unfortunately, even with treatment, some patients do not recover their hearing.  One of the most potentially serious of the possible causes is an autoimmune condition, because successful treatment depends on early intervention.  Thus, if you have a sudden hearing loss, see an otologist as soon as possible.  Specialized tests like brain-stem audiometry or brain MRI can determine if the loss is related to acoustic neuroma, a tumor on the balance nerve. 

Causes of sudden hearing loss may include:

  1. Viral inner ear infection
  2. Rupture of a delicate membrane in the inner ear
  3. Acoustic neuroma (tumor on the hearing and balance nerves)
  4. Meniere’s disease (excessive pressure in the inner ear)
  5. Autoimmune inner ear disease (immune system attacking inner ear)
  6. Head trauma
  7. Circulatory problems

Steroids like dexamethasone are one of the mainstays of treatment for sudden hearing loss.  Intratympanic perfusion with dexamethasone is particularly effective in some cases of sudden sensorineural hearing loss.  Dexamethasone perfusion of the inner ear may improve the hearing loss, and reduce the fullness, noise, and dizzy spells associated with sudden sensorineural hearing loss also.

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