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Health Watch: Sudden hearing loss, an immediate concern

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 4:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Some bodily oddities will pass with time, while others should be immediately concerning and a reason to seek medical aid. One such case that could befall anyone at any time is sudden hearing loss.

Mariana McIlwain, Audiologist with the Fairbanks Hearing and Balance Center explained, “Sudden hearing loss is waking up one day, [and] completely losing hearing from one ear or maybe both ears. A lot of people don’t know this is an emergency and may just say ‘It’ll get better, maybe I’ll wait a week or two.’ But the message I want to get out is that it is an emergency, and the faster we act on it the higher the chance is that you could recover that hearing that you lost.”

Research shows that if you’re able to seek medical attention within 72 hours of a sudden hearing loss - meaning a comprehensive hearing test and appropriate treatment - there’s a significantly higher chance of recovering some or all of that hearing.

McIlwain continued, “We treat this as an emergency. We’ll get you in the same day and we’ll just make sure you don’t actually have a sudden hearing loss, which could happen for many reasons. Some we know, some we don’t know, some may be disorders or diseases that we’re aware of, some may be autoimmune responses of your body, some may be accompanied by dizziness or vertigo which is a room-spinning sensation.”

Symptoms can include total loss or change in hearing, accompanied by aural fullness, pressure in the ear and increased ringing.

“The treatment options that ear, nose and throat offers are oral steroids, or sometimes an injection. It all depends on what the doctor recommends. We want to see you within 72 hours of the event to better assist you, [and] get a comprehensive hearing test. That way your ear, nose and throat doctor can better provide you possible treatment options that could potentially help you either recover some of that hearing or possibly all of it,” McIlwain said.

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