a woman having her ears checked by an audiologist

Sudden Loss of Hearing. What Should You Do?

You wake up one day, and something has changed. You sense you can’t hear out of one ear. It feels plugged, and you’re only really hearing from one side. Perhaps it bothers you a whole day. You reassure yourself it will pass. But will it? Is this normal? Should you take action? How long should you wait?

Sudden loss of hearing can be both ears, however, it is more commonly single sided. It can come from many conditions. In some cases it may resolve quickly. Some may not resolve without treatment.

We know there are three main parts of the ear. Outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. There is also the hearing nerve leading to the brain. A hearing problem can come from a disruption in any of these regions. One harmless condition that can produce sudden loss is occluding ear wax. This can usually be removed quickly and safely. Hearing is restored to its previous levels. Wax can be removed by a physician, nurse or audiologist.

The middle ear is the space behind the ear drum at the back of the ear canal. If your eustachian tube is congested, you may develop fluid behind the drum. This can often be resolved with medication or a tube through the drum.

The inner ear houses the organs of hearing that attach to the hearing nerve. Damage to these cells may be viral, bacterial or traumatic in nature. Sudden intense noises may also damage these receptor cells. Autoimmune diseases may also attack the receptors. Experience has shown us this kind of sudden loss may often be reversed. There is a time limit, however. A window of opportunity of about 72 hours is what ear, nose and throat physicians have found. Medications such as steroids have often been effective if given soon after onset.

It is important to note, you do not know what caused the loss until your ears have been examined by a professional. Permanent loss of hearing is not worth waiting. The first step is a prompt examination. As always, we wish to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.