Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million people in the United States. While many have developed the condition due to age, some have had it since birth. There’s also an estimated 20% of US teens with some degree of impaired hearing.
On top of those cases are incidents of sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden deafness. The medical term for this condition is sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL).
SSHL is a medical emergency, which is why it’s vital to know its symptoms. As such, please see a doctor if you experience any of the signs we’ve listed below.
Rapid Progression of Hearing Loss
SSHL is prevalent, with 4,000 to 66,000 new cases occurring each year. The most common sign is hearing loss that quickly progresses within 72 hours. During this time, the sound continues to become more muffled or faint.
Please don’t wait for days to pass before you see a doctor or an audiologist. The sooner you get treatment, the higher your chances of recovering your hearing.
Sudden Hearing Loss in Only One Ear
In some cases, SSHL can happen in an instant, although it often affects only one ear. You may notice this when you try to use the affected ear while on the phone. You may hear nothing at all, or you may hear very faint or muffled sounds.
Even if your other ear seems to be okay, please schedule an appointment with an ear specialist ASAP.
Weird or Loud Noises
Some people with SSHL first heard a loud pop in the affected ear before losing that ear’s hearing. Many others often hear ringing sounds in one or both ears. Sometimes, loss of balance can accompany these hearing loss symptoms.
Either way, it’s vital to see an ear doctor right away as these sounds can also indicate other ear conditions. For example, ringing or roaring in the ear can be a sign of tinnitus. Untreated tinnitus, in turn, can also lead to mental health conditions.
A Feeling of Ear Fullness
Ear fullness can make one or both ears feel clogged or stuffed. You may notice this when you yawn, chew, or swallow. It may also make you feel as if there’s fluid in your ears.
It’s imperative to see a doctor if you have ear fullness, as this can be a sign of SSHL caused by an infection. Immediate treatment of the illness is necessary for hearing loss prevention.
Sudden hearing loss can also make you feel dizzy. In such cases, vertigo is behind the sudden dizziness or spinning sensation.
Ménierè’s Disease, in turn, is an ear condition that can cause SHHL, tinnitus, and vertigo. It’s an inflammatory disease of the inner ear and the vestibular system. About 45,500 new cases of this ear problem occur each year in the US.
Please note that untreated Ménierè’s Disease can cause some degree of permanent hearing loss. This should be enough reason to see an ear doctor if you experience SSHL with dizziness and tinnitus.
Don’t Let Sudden Hearing Loss Become Permanent
Granted, one to two in three people with sudden hearing loss recover spontaneously. However, some of those who don’t recover then develop hearing loss in both ears. Others also become afflicted by Ménierè’s Disease.
That’s why you should never delay seeing an ear specialist as soon you experience the signs of SSHL.
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