Now you hear it, now you don't

Sudden hearing loss is scary - and more common than you think.

What if suddenly, you can't hear?

Seemingly out of nowhere, you lose part or all of your hearing in one ear, or in a few even worse cases, both ears, from one day or even one moment to the next. You may wake up with a sudden hearing loss one morning. Or it may hit you at any time during the day.

First, you should know that this is more common than most people think. Then you should go immediately to see your doctor.

Sudden hearing loss is a frightening condition. It happens to between 300,000 and more than 1.2 million people around the world, according to various estimates. Sudden hearing loss can strike at any age, but it is most common in people who have reached their fifties. The causes vary, and unlike the more common forms of slowly developing hearing loss, sudden hearing loss may not be permanent.

The good news is that some forms of sudden hearing loss may go away by themselves or be reversed by medical treatment. Studies indicate that between 30 percent and 70 percent will experience partial or complete recovery, usually within a couple of weeks. But whatever your circumstance, you should deal with a sudden hearing loss as a true emergency of the ear and have your condition assessed and the causes investigated by your doctor and hearing specialists.

Source: The Hearing Review, December 2003, Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss special issue.

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