I have a friend who recently experienced what he thought was a routine head/sinus cold. After several days into the cold symptoms, he woke up in the morning with a clogged right ear. At the time he didn’t think much about it because he didn’t have any pain. However by the end of the day, he was unable to hear out of the ear.
The next day he did the sensible thing and saw his regular doctor who treated it as a middle ear infection with anti-biotics. However, more time went by with no improvement. So he then went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) and was advised that he only had about a 30% chance of recovering his hearing. This amazed me, because he experienced no pain in his ear to reinforce how serious the problem was.
What he eventually learned was that his hearing loss was likely the result of the virus that created the original cold symptoms, as it attacked the auditory nerve from his ear to his brain literally cutting the cord so the brain could no longer receive the signals the ear was sending it.
The condition is rather rare, with only about 15,000 cases reported world wide. While researchers have identified over 100 conditions that can lead to SSHL, doctors are able to diagnose a specific cause in only about 15% of the cases. As a result, definitive diagnosis and effective treatment are still largely unknown.
What is known is that the best results from any treatment are seen within the first 3 days to 1 week of the onset of symptoms. For this reason, doctors recommend that you treat any sudden hearing loss as a medical emergency and receive a thorough examination by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor) as soon as possible.
In my friend’s case, it was nearly 3 weeks after the onset of hearing loss that he received treatment. While his chances of recovery are diminished because of this time factor, he still remains hopeful.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss