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I've heard from both an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and an audiologist (hearing specialist) that in the case of sudden hearing loss, time is of the essence, and the patient should be seen as soon as possible. The audiologist I was speaking with related that her audiology teacher experienced sudden hearing loss herself, and missed class to drive as fast as possible to the doctor to be seen.

Unfortunately, neither of these professionals explained why this was the case. Why the urgency to take care of sudden hearing loss? Is it due to a concern that it will worsen to the point that it will not be curable? Is there a particular treatment that won't work (as well?) after an amount of time? Or is it just due to the discomfort of being unable to hear for an amount of time?

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  • Just to be clear, are we only talking about sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), not some other sudden hearing loss like noise-induced hearing loss (e.g. a grenade just exploded near you)? – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 5 '15 at 3:09
  • @FranckDernoncourt I think so, but I'm no hearing expert. – Shokhet Apr 6 '15 at 3:20
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The reason why you should see a doctor right away is because some causes of sudden hearing loss need to be treated right away. Common causes of sudden hearing loss are [1]

  • infectious disease
  • trauma such as head injury
  • autoimmune disease such as Cogan's syndrome
  • ototoxic drugs
  • blood circulation problems
  • a tumor on the nerve that connects the brain to the ear
  • neurology disease and disorders such as multipe sclerosis
  • disorders of the inner ear such as Meniere's disease

Having to see a doctor right away does not imply the hearing loss will be permanent, but since some of the causes of sudden hearing loss can be serious, the need to see a specialist sooner rather than later is paramount.

Additionally, "treatment is directed at any known cause of the sudden deafness. When the cause is unknown, many doctors try giving corticosteroids along with antiviral drugs effective against herpes simplex (such as valacyclovir or famciclovir). [2]"

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10

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, a sudden hearing loss (Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss) is considered as a medical emergency as the treatment is more efficient if given as soon as possible:

[...] delaying SSHL diagnosis and treatment may decrease the effectiveness of treatment.

This appears in the section 1 of the linked document.

This only answers your main question though, not the secondaries, as no further detail is given regarding why the treatment could be less efficient over the time. But the diagnosis and the treatment are both explained.

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