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Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency. This condition can be caused by a virus infection or a small stroke of the inner ear.


One of the most common symptoms of sudden hearing loss is waking up feeling like one ear is plugged. Patients often complain of being unable to hear people on the phone with the affected ear.

The plugged ear is frequently mistaken for a cold or allergies.

One way to test to see if you have sudden hearing loss is to hum. If you only hear the humming in the opposite ear, then you may have sudden hearing loss and should immediately seek treatment at an ear specialist's office (otologist-neurotologist).

If you can hear the humming in the ear that is plugged, then it is the routine ear plugging from a cold or allergies, or perhaps fluid in the ear.


A hearing test is required to make the diagnosis of sudden hearing loss.

Since acoustic neuromas occur in 3 percent to 10 percent of patients with sudden hearing loss, an MRI is obtained to rule it out.

Blood tests may be done to rule out certain conditions such as lyme disease, infection or an autoimmune condition.


Treatment consists of a course of high-dose steroids taken by mouth. The treatment should start within the first two weeks of the onset of hearing loss.

If there is no recovery of hearing at one week, steroid treatment is given in the ear. This procedure is done using a small needle to place the medication behind the ear drum.

The special steroid medication (methylprednisolone) will then enter the inner ear and improve the likelihood of hearing recovery.

To learn more, call 714-456-7017 or request an appointment online ›

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