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What is sudden hearing loss syndrome?

smiling with hand over ear listening an hearing to rumor or gossip. Do you know someone who has lost hearing in one of their ears? Maybe they had a lot of noise exposure or it dropped out suddenly without an explanation. Sadly, some people do not receive any treatment when their hearing drops out suddenly and their loss may become permanent. Early evaluation and appropriate treatment has a good chance of providing partial or complete recovery.

why does sudden hearing loss syndrome (SHLS) happen?

The cause for SHLS is not fully known, but it is suspected that a virus or bacteria gets into the fluid of the inner ear called the perilymph. Inflammation can occur and the cochlea, or hearing organ, can be affected. This is when the sudden hearing loss occurs. Sometimes the labyrinth, or balance organ, is affected too and patients will feel dizzy as well. Other symptoms may include fullness (feeling like cotton is in the ear) or tinnitus.

Here at our clinic, a CT scan of the sinuses is often performed when the patient has SHLS to ensure there is no underlying sinusitis that may have predisposed them to this condition.

How do I know if I have SHLS?

You need to have a hearing test and exam to confirm if you have SHLS. Call our clinic right away if you think you may have this condition.

Is this the same thing as “old-age” hearing loss?

No, hearing loss that occurs with age is called presbycusis and is often gradual symmetrical hearing loss.

What is the treatment if I have SHLS?

The sooner your SHLS is diagnosed, the more likely you will respond to treatment. Therefore, it is recommended that you see an ENT immediately if you suspect this is happening to you. Although you can still receive treatment if this happened years ago, it is less likely to be effective.
The treatment for SHLS includes two steroid treatments: a high dose oral steroid and a steroid injection to the inner ear called a trans-tympanic dexamethasone infusion (TTDI).

What can I expect with a TTDI?

The TTDI is performed by one of the Physician Associates (PA-C) in our clinic. Your ear drum is numbed with lidocaine gel for 15 minutes and then a strong steroid is injected into your middle ear to get absorbed into your hearing organ. This is not painful. There is some pressure and sometimes the patient feels dizzy for 1-2 minutes after the injection. The whole process takes <45 minutes.

The patient follows up 1 week later for reassessment with an audiogram to judge their improvement.
If the injection improves the hearing (but not 100% resolution), the patient can undergo another injection to attempt to gain further improvement.
If the injection does not improve their hearing, they may be a candidate for a tube placement where they give themselves steroid drops 3x a day for 30 days.
Sometimes imaging is performed such as an MRI of the brain.

What if my hearing doesn’t recover?

Sadly sometimes the hearing does not recover despite every treatment attempt. If this occurs, there are still highly effective hearing aids that work for many types of hearing loss. Many hearing aids today are well-hidden with blue-tooth technology. Our audiologist professionally fits patients for hearing aids and can help find the perfect one for you if you desire.

If you suspect you may have SHLS please contact our office to make an appointment.

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