One of the most confusing and contentious unsolved mysteries in otolaryngology, sudden deafness is a rapid loss of hearing. Sudden deafness is also known as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). The root cause of sudden deafness lies in the vestibulocochlear nerve (Cranial nerve VIII), the inner ear, or central processing centers of the brain. SSHL is defined as an idiopathic hearing loss of sensorineural origin, greater than 30 dB in three connected frequencies that usually occurs in less than three days and in only one ear. It may be escorted by dizziness and ringing in the ears. As it is a medical emergency, a person who experiences SSHL should visit a doctor immediately.
Most patients have reported onset of hearing loss within minutes to several hours and about one-third of patients will wake with the loss; others may find out the problem on trying to use the telephone, or describing a brief period of fluctuating hearing before the loss. From the affected individuals, about 10% of have known causes which include infections, circulatory or neurological disorders, trauma, immune disorders or drugs toxic to the ears. Most people recover impulsively within a few weeks, but 15% experience progressively worsening symptoms. Standard management of sudden deafness consists of removal of the known cause, antibiotics, steroids and inhalation of a mixture of carbon-dioxide and oxygen.
Causes of Sudden Deafness:
Some common causes experienced routinely are:
- Accumulated wax in the ear
- Infectious diseases
- Trauma, such as a head injury
- Abnormal tissue growth
- Infection in the ear such as acute otitis media, there is accumulation of pus inside the ear
- Foreign body in the ear
- Herpes simplex virus
- Virus diseases like colds and influenza
- Head injuries
- Loud explosive noise, explosives, rock concert, gun fire, hearing high watts stereo music
- Airplane travel, or scuba diving or swimming under water
- Auditory nerve damage due to certain drugs such as Gentamycin, streptomycin, chloroquin, etc.
- Trauma to the ear which may result into perforation of the ear drum
- Immunologic diseases such as Cogan’s syndrome
- Toxic causes, such as snake bites
- Ototoxic drugs (drugs that harm the ear)
- Circulatory problems
- Neurologic causes such as multiple sclerosis
- Relation to disorders such as Ménière’s disease
Treatment for sudden deafness:
People experiencing SSHL should consult a physician immediately. The chances for recovery increased fast by finding a medical help. If the hearing loss is not severe, some doctors to not recommend any treatment but individuals who suffer from SSHL can be very fearful of the prospect of being permanently deaf in one ear, and this can set up a long treatment options that can be intimidating to the patient and the doctor.
Identical experiences like loud noise can cause hearing loss in one person and leave another relatively unaffected. The most widely used treatment is high doses of steroids, and some people recover from SSHL, but not others. They generally work to decrease inflammation, decrease swelling, and help the body to fight illness. Steroid treatment helps to some SSHL patients who also have conditions that affect the immune system, the body’s defense against disease.
For use in treating SSHL, the following general drug treatment classes have been reported:
- Plasma expanders
- Antiviral agents
- Mixed therapy
Natural treatment may benefit to SSHL suffers:
- Herbal Diuetics
- Don’t use cotton swabs in ears
- A reduction in hard physical exertion and only low impact exercises
- Low-sodium diet, non-processed foods, eating less sugar
- Absence of noise exposure such as guns, engines, rock concerts, MP3 players
- Limiting the intake of stimulants such as: coffee, alcohol, and tobacco
Diuretics help to flush out toxins, and sodium build up that can affect hearing loss. Consuming a diet low or free of preservatives can be helpful as well. The researchers suggest that diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Such damage has been shown by autopsy studies of diabetes patients. By taking less processed sugar in diet, you can low your blood sugar and thus reverse some of the debilitating effects.
Alpha-lipoic Acid for Treating Hearing Loss:
A sulfur-containing fatty acid, an alpha-lipoic acid helps to generate the energy that keeps us alive and working. Lipoic acid has broad range of antioxidant action and thus giving defense against free radicals. Also, it has potential benefits for diabetic neuropathy, and it is proposed that it may help to prevent or repair nerve damage that causes hearing loss.
The commonly recommended dosage of oral lipoic acid is 100 to 200 mg thrice daily. A lower dosage of 20 to 50 mg daily is commonly recommended for use as a general antioxidant.
Magnesium for Treating Hearing Loss:
The study has shown that the groups given the magnesium supplement were not as likely to experience permanent hearing damage as those given a placebo. Magnesium can be taken in a supplement that includes magnesium, calcium and vitamin D for the most benefit, read below.
- Magnesium Safe Dosage:
- Males 19-30 years 400 mg per day
- Males >30 years 420 mg
- Females 19-30 years 310 mg
- Females >30 years 320 mg
Normally, as supplementation it is taken in dosages of 750 – 1,000 mg per day.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth in the middle ear), presbycusis, unexplained and bilateral cochlear deafness, and sensorineural hearing loss. Deficiency of vitamin D is probably one of the reasons and supplementation should be considered in persons with hearing loss as noted by researchers. Magnesium deficiency will also affect calcium intakes. In the body, just one deficiency can have trickle down affect and makes it very hard to isolate the exact cause of sudden hearing loss, and many other disease process.
- Calcium Safe Dosage: 500-1200 mg per day
- Vitamin D Safe Dosage: 400 I.U.
Prevention for sudden deafness:
- When listening to music, protect your hearing. Keep the volume low enough that you can easily hear the telephone and other sounds over the music. You should be the only one able to hear your music if you are using a personal stereo unit with headphones. It is too loud if someone standing next to you can hear it.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol and sugars as it promote the growth of yeast. This is particularly important if you have repeated ear infections and have been treated with antibiotics. Also remove or keep to a minimum your intake of caffeine, chocolate, and sodium.
- Always wear ear protection (disposable plugs or earphone-style headset) when using loud appliances for example power tools or lawn mowers; and when you know you will be exposed to sudden loud noises, such as when shooting a gun.
Sudden Hearing Loss- Health Connection video from Youtube: