Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is the loss of hearing which occurs over three days or less. It can be accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and sometimes dizziness. There are many causes of sudden sensorineural hearing loss including infection, circulatory problems, head trauma, neurologic and immunologic diseases, toxin exposure, and neoplasms (tumors). Many times, a specific cause for sudden sensorineural hearing loss cannot be identified.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is diagnosed with a careful history and physical examination as well as an audiogram (hearing test). Sometimes blood tests and an MRI scan of the brain may be necessary.
Treatment may include antiviral medications and/or steroids. The steriods may be taken orally or injected through the tympanic membrane (eardrum). The medications may be helpful, but in some cases, no improvement is achieved. Some may recover spontaneously, without any medication. Evaluation by an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) should be sought immediately because early treatment has been shown to improve recovery.