Sudden Hearing Loss or Sudden Deafness

Sudden Deafness

One of the most baffling hearing loss situations involves the relatively quick loss of hearing in one or both ears. This can occur in a matter of hours or days, and is devastating to those who experience it. Sudden hearing loss affects one in 5000 persons every year! That’s 60,000 persons each year in the US alone!

Doctors don’t really know the cause of sudden hearing loss – it may involve autoimmune disease and/or a viral infection. The most promising treatment is steroids, which can bring at least partial recovery in about half of the cases if treatment is started immediately.

October 2000 – Here’s a doctor’s response to a question about sudden hearing loss.

December 2005 – That hearing loss you experience with a cold or flu may NOT be due to congestion. It may be the much more serious sudden hearing loss. Learn how to tell the difference, and what to do if it is sudden hearing loss!


Loss of Hearing with a Cold Could be Sudden Deafness

By Jeffree Itrich


Editor: Roughly 60,000 Americans lose suddenly lose hearing in one or both ears every year. Prompt medical treatment can often successfully restore at least partial hearing if it begins immediately. Unfortunately, the general public (and even the hearing loss community) is surprisingly uninformed about this surprisingly common malady. Here’s a press release from UCSD with important information


Sudden deafness is an ear emergency that strikes one person in 5000 every year, says Jeffrey Harris, M.D., UCSD Chief of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.

Harris says about half the patients may notice dizziness or imbalance for up to a day or two, but the main symptom is a blocked ear and tinnitus (ringing, roaring, or buzzing noise). If caught quickly, at least 50% of cases can be reversed with medical treatment.

“Current evidence suggests that sudden deafness usually arises as a complication of viral infection,” says Harris. “The cold weather season is also the head cold season. Many patients who catch cold develop ear blockage and assume it is just congestion from the head cold when it could be sudden deafness. By the time the cold symptoms are gone and they notice that only one ear cleared and the other one is still blocked, it is often too late to treat the deafness.”

Harris adds that if a person had normal hearing before getting a head cold, there is a simple test that will tell if a blocked ear is from congestion or nerve damage: Hum out loud. If you hear your voice louder in the blocked ear, the problem is congestion and is probably temporary. But, if you hear your voice louder in the good ear, this indicates possible nerve damage in the blocked ear.

A blocked ear should be examined by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat, head and neck specialist) as soon as possible. UCSD is conducting a clinical trial on sudden deafness. For information about the trial call 858-657-6836 or visit

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