Sudden Hearing Loss

Recently a patient described to me how over the course of one morning she noticed she lost her hearing in her right ear. She stated that she did not notice anything different when she woke up, but as the morning progressed, she felt something wasn’t right. She was having problems localizing things and understanding what people were saying to her. It wasn’t until she answered the phone and noticed she couldn’t hear the caller from her right ear but could hear him clearly from her left ear did she realize what the problem was. Fortunately for her, she sought medical advice, was treated and experienced a full recovery.

This patient suffered what is referred to as sudden onset idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss (SOISHL). Unfortunately roughly 4,000 Americans suffer this affliction and most do not see the same end result as my patient. The trouble with SOISHL is we don’t know why it happens, what triggers it or how to prevent it. All we can do is to react quickly once it occurs. Studies indicate beginning treatment within 10 days of the loss is your best chance to see the greatest recovery.

SOISHL typically occurs over a period of several hours to three days. Spontaneous recovery can occur within two weeks but is experienced by only 30 to 60 percent of patients. Patients who begin a treatment of oral corticosteroids within 10 days of the hearing loss have shown to have increased percentage of full recovery within a month.

I share this story not to scare you but to inform you of what to do if you ever find yourself in that situation. Don’t wait and hope it gets better. See your physician immediately, take the appropriate steps and pray you experience a full recovery.

By Dr. Matthew Rumsey

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart