The Silent Emergency

October 8, 2018

It's something called Sudden Hearing Loss. The more technical term is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss.

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Did you know that there are not very many ear emergencies?  Most hearing loss is gradual and most ear conditions are not an emergency so to speak (except for various traumas of course).   Yes, there certainly are serious medical conditions with the ear that require prompt attention, but most of them are not what we would consider a short term medical emergency.  However, there is one and that is what I want to talk about today.   It's something called Sudden Hearing Loss. The more technical term is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss.  

Here's what it is. Your inner ear (the snail shaped cochlea behind the eardrum) suddenly loses all or partial hearing.  Some people wake up and their hearing is just gone.  

Or, over the course of a few hours it changes very quickly.   It can be a large percentage of hearing loss where things become distant and muffled sounding, or a complete loss where you hear nothing.   Often this happens in one ear, but it can be both. The experience could be accompanied with other sounds or sensations such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but it doesn’t have to.  The bottom line is, if your hearing changes quickly in one or both ears, this is an emergency!    

The reason is that the sooner you can get medical treatment, the sooner it is possible that it might be able to be reversed.   The time frame can be as little as a day or less after which the hearing loss is more likely to remain permanent. So what to do?  

If you or somebody you know describes his or her hearing having changed quickly,  get a hearing test and see your physician immediately. Since both of those things can take days, the better advice is simply to go to the emergency room and describe the situation.  

It is possible that you will be referred to an ear nose and throat specialist quickly where timely treatment can result in better results. At Nanaimo Hearing Clinic we take sudden hearing loss seriously.  This means that if someone describes this as a possibility, we will do our best to make time in our schedule for an emergency hearing test.  Going to your physician or the emergency room with test results helps them to make more accurate and timely recommendations.

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