Clinical Scientist / Operations Manager
If you notice a sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears, it is important to seek medical advice with a degree of urgency.
If you have a sudden hearing loss, in some cases, administration of steroid medication within 72 hours of the hearing decline may improve long term outcomes in relation to hearing levels. The easiest way to access this treatment is by seeing your GP or accessing on call GPs via 111.
Most GPs will know what to do in the event of sudden hearing loss but if unsure, may contact the local audiology department or on-call Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor at the hospital for advice. If you experience sudden hearing loss and are unable to access your GP, then you can contact your local audiology department or seek help from the emergency department.
It is not always necessary to perform an immediate hearing test before treatment if this is not available within the required timeframe. However, it is ideal that at some stage, you are seen by the ENT department with a hearing test performed in Audiology to assess the type and degree of hearing loss and monitor it over time.
The extent of your hearing loss would be assessed using Pure Tone Audiometry which aims to measure the quietest level of pure tones at different frequencies that you can hear in each ear. If a hearing impairment is present, other tests such as tympanometry which measures the status of the middle ear may be performed.
There may be some easy to explain reasons for rapid or sudden loss such as ear infection, trauma, severe congestion and sometimes a visual inspection of the ear using an otoscope may reveal some clues to your doctor or audiologist.
In cases of sudden hearing loss, the cause is not always defined and may be referred to as ‘idiopathic hearing loss’. This is generally the case when the loss is very sudden and sensorineural in nature which means the loss is arising from a problem in the inner ear or nerve of hearing.
Should steroid treatment or other interventions not be possible or not lead to an improvement in hearing, it is likely that one or two hearing aids may be recommended. Hearing aids generally help a great deal in most cases of hearing impairment but are sometimes less successful in helping with sudden hearing loss as may sound distorted and unclear. However, it is worth trying as this can improve over time as the ear settles from the event and the brain learns to process the altered sound. Your audiologist would support you in this process and recommend ways in which you can get used to your hearing aid. You can also see advice from our audiology experts at Chime on getting used to new hearing aids.
The most important message is to seek medical attention as soon as possible in cases of sudden hearing loss. If you have any questions around your hearing needs, see our frequently asked questions. Alternatively you can always contact us or request advice, we are always happy to help.