July 5, 2012

Ask the Audiologist – What should you do if you have sudden hearing loss?

By Janet Liddicoat, Au.D., CCC-A
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

Many people with sudden hearing loss realize it when they wake up. It may occur in one ear or both but it is more common in one ear. There is not always a known cause to why your hearing suddenly disappeared. There are two different types of sudden hearing loss, conductive and sensorineural.

Conductive sudden hearing loss is in the middle ear or canal. Many times you will feel “plugged-up.” This can be caused by the common cold or middle ear infection or fluid build-up. This can be handled by your family physician. If you have a sudden hearing loss due to a blow to the head or a loud noise, you need to see an ear specialist immediately.

Sensorineural sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency. This is also when you might not notice the loss in hearing until you wake up in the morning. Others have reported hearing a loud “pop” before the hearing disappears as well. When your hearing changes you may also experience dizziness or vertigo and also tinnitus (ringing). You may also experience a feeling of fullness or even a headache.

If you have this occur you need to see an ear specialist immediately not your family physician. Your family physician is not prepared to help regain your hearing in this case. If there is a chance for your hearing to improve you need to see an ear specialist as soon as possible. Ear specialists like an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) or preferably an Otologist will know what to do to help you regain your hearing. When calling for an appointment, you need to stress that it was a sudden hearing loss and that you need to be seen immediately. You may also be scheduled for a hearing evaluation at the same time.

If after the sudden hearing loss you do not regain any of your hearing, a hearing aid may be the next option. A hearing aid will help you hear better in background noise and help you locate sounds better. With sudden hearing loss with no known cause it can be hard to accept the hearing loss, and it may take awhile before you are ready for the hearing aid.

An important thing to remember is to protect your hearing in your good ear. If you feel that you do fine with the one good hearing ear and the hearing impaired ear you want to make sure to protect the good hearing ear. Even when you are mowing the lawn, snow-blowing or even when using a loud vacuum. You also still want to protect the ear with the hearing loss. There are several degrees of hearing loss, and you don’t want the hearing loss in the ear to worsen.

If you have questions about hearing aids or how to protect your hearing, contact your audiologist. If ear plugs or muffs are not comfortable for you there is custom made hearing protection.