Sudden hearing loss is classified as hearing loss that occurs immediately or within a three-day period and is characterized by a loss of three or more decibels in a range of three frequencies. It is not uncommon for the hearing loss to only be experienced in one ear, though it can affect both. In many cases the cause of the sudden deafness is unknown, but there are several conditions that may play a role, including infectious diseases and unusual tissue growth. Sudden hearing impairment can strike people of any age, and treatments can consist of steroid medications and dietary changes.
Each case of sudden hearing loss is unique, and the condition can manifest different symptoms. For example, some people who suddenly lose their hearing may only notice the problem in specific situations, such as making a phone call or when trying to hear a waiter in a busy restaurant; others may experience a loud popping noise followed by immediate hearing loss. It is also common for those with sudden hearing impairment to notice a ringing or buzzing noise.
The most conservative treatment for sudden hearing loss is to not intervene at all and hope the symptoms clear up on their own. Some patients are fortunate enough for the condition to resolve itself, usually within three days of the initial onset. In some cases untreated sudden hearing loss may take a few weeks to clear up. While most patients do eventually recover, there is a low percentage of patients who experience further decline in their hearing.
Among the treatments for sudden deafness, the use of steroids is by far the most common. Since the direct cause of the deafness is usually unknown, steroids are used to reduce inflammation and help the body fight any infection that may be present. If the cause of the problem is known and it is advisable, a course of antibiotics is prescribed to eliminate the root factor creating the hearing malfunction. In the event the hearing loss is related to Meniere's disease, a low-salt diet is often suggested with excellent results.
Very few people ever learn what caused their sudden hearing loss, as there are more than a hundred known possible causes. Some of the most common include head injury or trauma resulting from illness or disease. The presence of chronic disease such as Meniere's and Cogan's syndrome are possible culprits, in addition to disorders of the circulatory system. Other patients may find toxins from snake or insect bites can produce problems with sudden deafness.