Sudden sensori-neural hearing loss (SSNHL) is a type of sudden hearing loss without warning and is quite frightening to the patient.
SSNHL is a true medical emergency and the patient must seek immediate medial attention and consultation with a physician ear specialist
known as an Otologist. Worldwide estimates claim there are over 15,000 cases of such SSNHL and 4,000 cases in the U.S.
Most cases afflict the 50- to 60-year old, however some cases occur in the 20- to 30-year age group.
The patient experiences complete or partial loss of hearing in one or both ears.
Occasionally, a viral upper respiratory infection precedes the hearing loss. Sometimes the patient has been exposed to
very loud noise (Disco dance clubs, concerts and/or target range gun-fire) prior to the event.
When loss of hearing follows loud noise trauma, the patient may recover hearing within a twenty-four hour period if attended to
by an Otologist. This hearing loss is called “Temporary Threshold Shift” since the loss of hearing in one or both ears may return
to normal relatively quickly -- usually 24-36 hours.
When the sudden hearing loss does not recover within a short period of time it may become permanent.
Some authors have described leaks in the membrane around the inner ear (labyrinthine membrane) in some cases of SSNHL.
Other surgeons have not found that to be so. Some authorities blame the hearing loss on inflammation of the nerve elements
-- neurons -- of hearing. Occasionally the loss is neoplastic -- a tumor -- benign (cholesteatoma, acoustic neuroma, etc.)
or malignant (gliomas, astrocytomas, etc.). Still, other authors say that the cause is vascular and attribute the hearing loss
to a lack of oxygen getting into the end organ of hearing -- the cochlear hair cells -- because of arteriosclerosis
and other similar narrowing of the vascular supply to the inner ear. Yet, other physicians blame auto-immune diseases on this
SSNHL (lupus, scleroderma, etc.). Most of the time, the cause of SSNHL is unknown.
Doctors refer to this as idiopathic meaning “cause unknown.”
Cortisone type steroids are often prescribed. Anti-viral drugs may also be prescribed, despite any proof that a specific virus
is the cause of the hearing loss. Some doctors prescribe Niacin -- a B vitamin -- which seems to improve inner ear circulation.
In days gone by, doctors had only Niacin in its un-engineered form which often causes severe facial flushing which upsets the patient.
This flushing can be prevented for the most part by prescribing specially formulated slow-release Niacin readily available at most
health food/vitamin stores in mega doses (250-500mg per day).
In no case should anyone take more than 500mg per day as more than that can prove toxic to the liver.
No real scientific proof exists that any of these treatments for SSNHL work,
but doctors often fall back on these treatments knowing that if they do not work, they do no harm.
Whether or not you are a candidate for any treatment
should be determined by your physician after a thorough, comprehensive exam.