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Sudden Onset Hearing Loss: Why It Can Be Serious

It can be very easy to ignore signs of hearing loss over time. But if you experience sudden onset hearing loss (a.k.a. sudden sensorineural hearing loss), it is important to visit your hearing care professional right away.

What are some symptoms of sudden hearing loss? (SHL)

Sudden hearing loss is defined as experiencing greater than a 30 dB hearing decrease over the course of 72 hours. While some experience it immediately when they wake, others find it takes hours to develop, or even days. It is common for SHL to progress in one ear, but can occur in both. Each person has their own experience with SHL, so it is crucial to notice the symptoms, which include:

  • Popping in the ear(s) pre-hearing loss
  • Ear pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of sensation in outer ear
  • Tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in ear)

Causes of sudden hearing loss can be serious

People often put off seeing a hearing care professional after experiencing SHL symptoms, assuming they’re the result of allergies, illness, or other common conditions. However, while only a small percentage of people who experience SHL can trace it to a specific cause, it can stem from a serious injury or condition. Some common causes of sudden hearing loss include:

  • Head trauma
  • Inner ear disorders
  • Neurological disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Blood circulation complications
  • Infectious diseases
  • Ototoxic drugs (harms sensory cells in the inner ear)
  • Tumors on a nerve that connects the ear to the brain

Don’t ignore it

While you might be tempted to take a wait-and-see approach to addressing sudden hearing loss, it’s not a good idea. The symptoms could be indicators of something more serious going on in your body. The best thing you can do to guarantee an accurate diagnosis is visit your hearing care professional.