The experience of a sudden hearing loss can be very unsettling. In some cases, the loss is a result of something simple, like a wax build up or fluid behind the eardrum. In other cases, a sudden hearing loss can be something more serious in nature that needs rapid audiological and medical attention – this type of loss is called a sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL).
Sudden sensorineural hearing losses are rare. Sometimes they can be linked to a viral infection, autoimmune disease, or other issue, while other times the cause is unknown. The most important thing to know is you should have your hearing tested right away to properly diagnose the loss. It can be difficult to distinguish between fluid behind the eardrum and a true SSNHL, so a hearing test will distinguish between these issues and help your doctor determine the proper course of action. Early medical attention is crucial, as immediate treatment offers the best chance of having the hearing improve.
Telling the difference between a SSNHL and a wax or fluid blockage is nearly impossible for patients themselves. If you experience a sudden change to your hearing, you should have an immediate hearing evaluation so your audiologist can determine the nature of the loss, and direct you to appropriate medical care if necessary.