Sudden hearing loss can be a scary thing. It can happen all at once or over a period of several days. In either case, it should be considered a true emergency and requires a visit to a doctor or audiologist immediately. An audiologist may be able to see you more quickly than your regular physician and with sudden hearing loss time is of the essence. Your audiologist will perform several diagnostic tests and will be able to determine if you need to see a specialist immediately or if the cause of the hearing loss is something as simple as a wax impaction, which can be treated while in the office. If the hearing loss is due to an infection and you do not see your doctor or audiologist within the first 72-hours after the hearing loss begins, the hearing loss may become permanent.
When hearing loss happens suddenly, it affects only one ear in 9 out of 10 people. Many people notice it when they wake up in the morning. Others will first notice it when they try to use the phone or when they can’t hear their alarm when one ear (the better hearing ear) is face-down into their pillow. It’s also not uncommon for someone with sudden hearing loss to experience dizziness or a ringing in the affected ear, called tinnitus, at the same time that the hearing loss is recognized.
There are many different causes for a sudden hearing loss but often, the specific cause is never identified. It is possible that the hearing loss is something as simple as wax in the ear canal or fluid behind the eardrum. But, the more sinister causes require immediate treatment by a physician. In fact, the sooner treatment is begun, the more likely hearing will be restored. If you’ve experienced a sudden change in your hearing, don’t wait to call your physician or audiologist. The sooner you make an appointment, the better.