Recovering from Sudden Hearing Loss

Recovering from Sudden Hearing Loss

How to Identify and Treat Sudden Hearing Loss

Definitions of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) vary widely, depending on severity, time course, audiometric criteria, and frequency spectrum of the loss. A commonly used criterion to qualify for this diagnosis is a sensorineural hearing loss of greater than 30 dB over three contiguous pure-tone frequencies occurring within a three-day period. Fortunately, the vast majority of cases of sudden hearing loss are unilateral, and the prognosis for some recovery of hearing is good.

Only about 10 to 15 percent of people with SSHL will ever know what actually caused their loss. That may be because there are many possible etiologies, including:

  • Labyrinthine viral infection
  • Labyrinthine vascular compromise
  • Intracochlear membrane ruptures
  • Immune-mediated inner-ear disease
  • Infectious diseases such as Lyme disease

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss most often occurs a week or so after a person has experienced a viral or bacterial infection, such as a head cold or the flu. When they see their family physician, it is often mistakenly confused with a common middle-ear infection and treated thusly. However, if the hearing loss is one sided and/or accompanied by tinnitus or vertigo, you should see an audiologist or otologist immediately. Although spontaneous recovery does occur, SSHL is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical evaluation.

Estimates of the annual incidence of sudden sensorineural hearing loss range from five to 20 cases per 100,000 people. Many cases likely go unreported, and so the incidence may be higher. Early treatment for SSHL can save your hearing, so it’s important to see a hearing healthcare professional for immediate evaluation. Evaluation should include a careful history and physical examination, including diagnostic audiometric testing.

Due to the elusive causes of SSHL, treatment options have been somewhat controversial. No single treatment has been shown to be unequivocally effective in treating patients with SSHL. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of corticosteroids make them a common treatment option. Most people do recover at least some of the hearing lost, but about 15 percent have symptoms that continue to worsen. For those patients with resultant permanent hearing loss, hearing technologies such as hearing aids and implantable devices can often help.

Hearing Loss Has a Negative Impact on Our Mental and Social Health

Hearing Loss Has a Negative Impact on Our Mental and Social Health

Hearing loss isn’t often thought of as a condition that can harm our mental health, but research has shown that it can make an impact on our self-confidence and relationships with others — our social health, in other words — in ways that impact our mental well-being.

Several large-scale studies have revealed how hearing loss might affect our mental health. A National Council on the Aging survey of 2,300 adults (and more than 2,000 of their accompanying loved ones) found that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and they are less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids. These depressed or anxious feelings become more severe as the individual’s hearing loss becomes more severe.

It’s common for someone with even a mild hearing loss (a loss in the ability to hear a sound at 25 to 40 decibels) to strain to hear or understand what a friend, loved one, or co-worker is saying — especially in noisy environments. Straining to hear another person’s words uses precious brainpower that could be spent thinking of a reply — continuing the conversation — rather than trying to understand what is being said. Communicating with friends and loved ones becomes an exhausting, frustrating experience, and some people would rather avoid these situations altogether.

Unfortunately, as hearing loss becomes more common among baby boomers, social isolation has become more common. In a 2014 article published in the Journal of Personality, hearing loss was found to be independently associated with a decrease in how outgoing older individuals are. Those with hearing loss are less outgoing and less satisfied with life as a whole.

Conversely, new literature displays the positive impacts of hearing loss treatment on a person’s relationships and quality of life. Research published in the February 2015 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology found that those who treated their hearing loss saw improvements in quality of life, relationship satisfaction, communication, and social functioning. Conversations, TV, group activities, and life in general become more enjoyable.

If you don’t feel that you’re hearing as well as you could, please contact your local hearing care specialist and book an appointment for a hearing test. It’s important to get a hearing test regularly to ensure that your hearing is healthy, and that you aren’t missing out on the little moments that make life truly enjoyable.

Is Your Child Experiencing Hearing Loss?

Is Your Child Experiencing Hearing Loss?

To a developing child, hearing loss can be devastating. Children with untreated hearing loss face 10 times the risk of being held back at least one grade in school, as well as reduced earning potential as an adult. When it comes to communication, hearing is the most crucial sense: Learning social skills and paying attention in class become far more difficult when hearing is impaired.

Identifying and treating hearing loss in children at an early age can lessen the negative impacts on that child’s development, giving them the opportunity to live up to their full potential socially, academically, and economically. Unfortunately, hearing problems in children aren’t always apparent until he or she gets a little older, which means they have missed out on precious developmental time.

Hearing tests performed at an early age, however, can help you make sure your child has healthy hearing. Below are some signs that your child may not be hearing as well as they could.

In Newborns and Infants:

Your child’s communication skills begin to develop as soon as they are born, and a developmental delay is a red flag that something isn’t quite right. These signs may indicate a hearing loss.

Difficulty Hearing/Understanding:

  • Not startling at loud noises
  • Not recognizing your voice
  • Not moving eyes in direction of sound

Difficulty with Speech Development:

  • Lack of babbling
  • Lack of crying for different needs
  • Doesn’t vocalize excitement or displeasure
  • Around 7 months to a year, hasn’t spoken one or two words

In Toddlers and Children:

Similar to newborns and infants, a toddler or young child’s difficulty communicating may indicate a hearing impairment. These signs may indicate your child is having trouble hearing at daycare or preschool.

Difficulty Hearing/Understanding:

  • Unable to point to different body parts when asked
  • Doesn’t enjoy being read to
  • Doesn’t understand action words like “run” or “sit”
  • Sits close to the television

Difficulty with Speech Development:

  • Unable to form simple sentences
  • Doesn’t ask “Why?” or “What?” questions
  • Can’t answer “Why?” or “What?” questions
  • Doesn’t use plurals or verbs

In Adolescents and Young Adults:

This group is perhaps more at risk of noise-induced hearing loss than at any point in our recent history. The World Health Organization released a report in 2015 announcing that 1.1 billion teens and young adults were at risk of hearing loss due to loud music listening habits through the earbuds that come with smartphones and other devices.

Look for these signs of hearing loss:

  • Turning up the television to an excessive volume
  • Saying “What?” frequently
  • Only responding when eye contact is made
  • Complaining of ringing in the ears or a dip in hearing ability
  • Withdrawing socially

If you believe your child is showing signs of hearing loss, please schedule an appointment with your local pediatric hearing care specialist. Early intervention and treatment can help ensure your child’s academic and social futures are not jeopardized by a treatable hearing loss.