Sudden hearing loss

What is sudden hearing loss?

Sudden hearing loss is when circulation in the inner ear is reduced causing hearing loss. It can be a frightening experience, so it’s important to seek help from a hearing expert as soon as possible to assess the level of loss.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL)

It is not conclusively known what causes sudden hearing loss, however it is believed that loud environments or workplaces could be the cause. If you believe you have sudden hearing loss you should book an appointment with your Bay Audiology clinician immediately. We will be able to assess the level of loss you are experiencing, look at potential causes of the loss, and refer you to a GP if necessary.

What causes sudden hearing loss?

Sudden or temporary hearing loss typically occurs due to one of two reasons:

  • When sound is not able to reach the inner ear from the outer or middle ear (e.g. there is a blockage in the pathway to the middle ear)
  • Or when sound does reach the inner ear, but is unable to continue to the brain due to inner ear or neural pathway damage

Below are some common causes of sudden hearing loss:

  • Ear infections: Bacteria can develop in the middle ear, causing a buildup of fluid. The swelling and excess fluid can cause a block of sound waves from passing through to the inner ear, which can result in temporary hearing loss. 
  • Ear wax: A buildup of ear wax can also block sound from passing through to the inner ear, resulting in temporary hearing loss.
  • Loud noise: Loud sounds can damage the sensitive nerve cells in the inner ear. Exposure to loud noise can either result in immediate or continuous noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Head trauma: Trauma to the head can cause brain concussions and injuries. This can damage the auditory system and pathway, resulting in sudden hearing loss. 
Three people speak at a Bay Audiology center
What to do in case of sudden deafness?

If you are experiencing sudden deafness, we recommend you visit an audiologist to check your hearing levels so that an appropriate medical referral can be made. 

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Can I get my hearing back?

About 50% of people who experience sudden hearing loss recover all or some of their hearing within 1 to 2 weeks. It is important to visit your Bay Audiology clinician as soon as you experience symptoms so it can be treated as soon as possible. 

Treatment for sudden hearing loss

Sudden hearing loss should be treated proactively. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should visit your Bay Audiology clinician as soon as possible. In most cases, normal hearing returns within 1 to 2 weeks or even sooner. The quicker you see a hearing professional, the more successful treatment can be. 

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