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What Exactly Is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Sudden hearing loss or sudden sensorineural hearing loss is defined by a sudden loss of hearing within a 72 hour period, resulting in greater than a 30 dB drop in hearing for at least three consecutive test frequencies.

Sudden Hearing Loss Symptoms – Sudden hearing loss most typically occurs in one ear and varies in severity from patient to patient. For some, the onset of the sudden hearing loss is reported to have been noticed instantaneously, often in the morning. Others report the onset of hearing loss occurred over a period of hours or often days.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) typically accompanies sudden hearing loss. Vertigo (dizziness) has also been reported to be present in roughly 40% of sudden hearing loss cases.

Sudden Hearing Loss Causes – Although the exact cause of sudden hearing loss is unknown for most people, there are many potential causes of sudden hearing loss, including viral infections, neurologic issues, metabolic and immunologic disease, toxicity, trauma to the inner ear, circulatory problems of the inner ear such as Meniere’s Disease, idiopathic (unknown) and others.

Sudden Hearing Loss Diagnosis and Treatment – People who experience a sudden loss of hearing should seek medical attention immediately from a qualified health professional.

The diagnosis of sudden hearing loss begins with having a full hearing evaluation to assess the amount of hearing loss that has occurred. Based on the audiogram and a full evaluation by a physician, the sudden hearing loss is diagnosed.

The physician may suspect possible causes based on case history and the physical evaluation. Blood work and image tests are also recommended to rule out possible medical causes.

Treatment for sudden hearing loss has been controversial and inconsistent among physicians due to the fact the cause of sudden hearing loss is often unknown. According to research presented at theAmericanAcademyof Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery Foundation meeting in 2008, there are no official guidelines or position statements regarding the evaluation and treatment of sudden hearing loss (Friedland and Shemirani, 2008).

Currently the most common forms of treatment including oral steroids and anti-viral medication prescribed typically by either a family physician or an Otolaryngologist (ENT).

Between 32% and 65% of patients who experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss will recover. Recovery is more likely to occur if the time between onset of symptoms and treatment is a short interval, vertigo is absent, a mild to moderate hearing loss, a mid-frequency / upsloping audiometric pattern, and the patient’s age is of 15-40 years old. Because the chance of recovery is greater if the hearing loss is treated early – and because a significant percentage of patients do not recover their hearing – evaluation of treatment option is critical.

About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at

2 responses »

  1. Thank you for the excellent information. Now I know what is causing my sudden hearing loss – too much noise!

  2. I lost hearing in one of my ears and was searching the internet for answers. You made it very clear what’s going on. Thank you.


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