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Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss: Get help right away

You wake up in the morning and hear out of only one ear. How could this happen overnight? The answers vary widely.fa/wax. The most common and easily reversible cause of sudden hearing loss is earwax. Your doctor may be able to clean the canal. Before the cleaning, tell your doctor if you have a hole in your eardrum or a perforated eardrum, or if you've ever had ear surgery. In such cases, the wax shouldn'tbe removed by flushing with water (irrigation).

Excess fluid

Changes in air pressure or having a cold may cause the eustachian (u-STA-shun) tube to malfunction. This tube normally lets air into the middle ear to keep pressure equalized. When the tube doesn't work properly, fluid can collect and block sound vibrations so that they don't reach the inner ear. This decreases hearing in the affected ear.

Infection

The most likely culprits are viruses that cause inflammation in the inner ear or the hearing nerve. If a sudden hearing loss is due to infec­tion in the inner ear, prompt treatment — within 24 hours if possible — with steroids and antiviral medication will increase the chances of recovery.

Bone damage

Hearing loss may occur if the bones in the middle ear become frozen in place or lose contact with each other. This situation can result from infection, disease or a severe blow to the head.

Blocked artery

A single, small artery supplies blood to the inner ear. If this artery becomes blocked, hearing loss will occur. Hearing may improve spontaneously, but prompt treatment with steroids will increase the chances of recovery. Artery blockage can be caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits called plaques, similar to the process that causes some types of heart attack or stroke. People with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or diabetes are at higher risk of this problem.

Aging

Hearing loss with aging (presbycusis) happens gradually, but you might not notice it until someone calls it to your attention. For that reason, you might think of the hearing loss as sudden.

Whatever the cause, take action

Whenever you suddenly lose hearing, see your doctor right away. If your doctor can't find a specific cause, then ask about seeing an otolaryngologist.