What is Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss affects one in six Australians, and although most of the time it’s gradual, people can develop sudden hearing loss. 

There are different types and degrees of hearing loss. Today, we’ll discuss idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, its causes, symptoms, and what you can do to treat it. 

Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In medical terms, idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss is described as hearing loss over 30dB at a minimum of three frequencies next to each other. 

In general terms, it is a sudden, unexpected hearing loss that has occurred over a period of fewer than 72 hours, most often in one ear. 

While it is rare, it has been found that 20 people in every 100,000 develop idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss per year. 

What causes it?

The exact cause of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss is still unclear. 

According to a medical review of all available evidence examining the suspected causes of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, 71% were labelled as idiopathic or as having no known causes, 12.8% resulted from ear infections, 4.7% from ear disease, 4.2% from head injuries and 2.8% from vascular issues within the cochlea. 

So far, medical researchers have yet to conclusively establish a clear link between idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss and the causes outlined above.

Symptoms of Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing LossSymptoms of Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss 

To determine whether you have experienced idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, there are key symptoms to look out for, including

  • A sudden change in one ear only that has occurred during a 72 hour period 
  • Onset of ringing or tinnitus in the affected ear
  • A blocked or full sensation in the ear
  • Feelings of imbalance or vertigo 

It’s important to note that you may only have some of the symptoms listed above. However, the key symptom is a sudden change in hearing over three days.

Steps to take if you experience these symptoms 

If you experience a sudden loss of hearing that may or may not be accompanied by the symptoms above, it’s essential to give yourself the best chance of recovering the lost hearing by seeking medical advice immediately.

Make an appointment with your GP and ask for a referral to an audiologist. You will then need to organise an urgent appointment with an audiologist to confirm the status of your hearing. 

At the audiology appointment, the audiologist will conduct a full hearing assessment to determine whether hearing loss is present. If there is, they will diagnose the type and severity of your hearing loss. If the evaluation shows a significant hearing loss, an urgent appointment will be organised to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. 

Sensorineural Hearing LossHow to Treat Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss 

As previously mentioned, the cause of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss is usually unknown and, therefore, the diagnosis is difficult to treat. 

However, the most frequently used treatment is corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory medicine. 

After a full medical review in conjunction with the audiology results, your Ear, Nose and Throat specialist will determine the most appropriate medical treatment for your needs.

As to whether you’ll recover the lost hearing is difficult to predict. 

However, research has shown that your age, whether you experienced vertigo at the time of the hearing change, the severity of your hearing loss and the time between the hearing loss occurring and medical treatment being sought all impact whether the hearing loss will be recovered. 

Medical studies have shown that up to 65% of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss cases recover spontaneously. Furthermore, up to 65% of patients regain their hearing within one month after experiencing the sudden hearing change. 

In A Nutshell 

Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is a very scary experience for any person. If you experience a sudden hearing change in less than three days without any symptoms or accompanied vertigo, tinnitus or aural fullness, seek medical advice urgently. Although factors affect your final prognosis, prompt medical treatment will ensure that you have the best chance of recovering the lost hearing. 

If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss and have been referred to get hearing aids, look no further than EarDeals. We offer a wide range of hearing aids from global manufacturers for all budgets. 

Browse our range on our website or contact our hearing aid brokers to get more information or help to choose the right hearing aid to suit your hearing needs. 

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