Some adults wake up in the morning to discover a sudden loss of hearing in one or both of their ears, thinking the loss of hearing was caused by allergies or earwax buildup. Oftentimes, allergies or earwax buildup may be the reason for this hearing loss, but sometimes the condition may be far more serious.
Every year, approximately 4,000 American adults are diagnosed with a condition called ISSHL (idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss) – a form of permanent hearing loss that takes place suddenly or over the course of 1 to 3 days. The causes of ISSHL are often unknown (idiopathic) but may be attributed to by infections, certain medications, meningitis, and/or head injuries.
Adults with ISSHL notice a change in their hearing, which may sound muffled or soft in volume. Sometimes, ISSHL can occur in just one ear, leading to balance problems, as well as episodes of vertigo.
Some adults with ISSHL do not immediately seek out medical attention because they believe their hearing loss is only temporary and that it will correct itself within a few days. However, ISSHL is caused by irreversible damage to the cochlea, inducing permanent hearing loss that will not correct itself within a few days.
If you notice signs of hearing loss, it is recommended that you see your general practitioner as soon as possible because the chances of recovering your hearing increases the sooner the hearing loss is caught. Medical professionals test hearing loss by physically inspecting the ears in addition to tests that measure auditory thresholds and speech recognition.
Recent therapy for ISSHL includes a course of oral corticosteroids or direct injection of steroids into the ear over week- or month-long intervals. Although these treatments have shown to be effective for some individuals, hearing loss is often never fully recovered.