Sudden unbearable ear pain is not common. This could be a signal that your body is giving to alert you about an underlying condition. Sudden pain or deafness is a sign of sudden sensorineural hearing loss which is a dangerous ear condition. This may occur in one ear but gradually affects the other ear too, if not treated on time. Dr. Suven Kalra, Consultant- ENT at Max Superspeciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi calls sudden sensorineural hearing loss, heart attack of the ear. Let us tell you more about this ear health condition.
What is Sudden sensorineural hearing loss?
When your hearing power is compromised and you cannot hear anything less than 30 decibels, this could be sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Mostly people aged between 30 to 60 suffer from this condition. However, if the person receives treatment before severe damage is caused, he/she can recover within a week or two. But those who fail to get treated can even lose hearing powers.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss- Heart attack of the Ear
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing loss or SSNHL has many similarities to a heart attack. Typically, the patient presents with a sensation of a completely blocked ear or loss of hearing with a variable amount of vertigo and nausea or vomiting.
This condition affects the patient’s inner ear, the Cochlea- the part that converts sound into nerve signals. There is a sudden blockage of blood supply to the inner ear- just like a heart attack. Blood supply of the cochlea may be compromised by spasm of the blood vessels or a clot that obstructs blood flow. As the blood vessel supplying the inner ear is very small, even a microscopic clot can cause SSNHL. Among other causes, any viral infection can also cause this problem. The inner ear also senses body balance, hence SSNHL causes vertigo also. You should not clean your ears with cotton swabs as these are dangerous.
What causes sudden sensorineural hearing loss?
Here are some of the major causes of SSNHL:
- Continuous exposure to loud sounds is one of the most common causes of SSNHL. People who are habitual of listening to loud music that too on headphones are at maximum risk.
- Someone who recently suffered a head injury is also vulnerable to hearing loss that may lead to permanent deafness.
- Age is also a risk factor as hearing power decreases with age. Thus, this condition mostly affects people above 30.
What is the recovery process?
Recovery from SSNHL is not always smooth and a patient may be left with permanent hearing loss – mainly because treatment was not started on time. The best predictor of recovery from SSNHL and the final hearing result is the time between the onset of symptoms and starting of the treatment, indeed the first few hours are golden – also like a heart attack.
However, all is not lost even if a person lands up with a permanent hearing loss. A simple surgery using Cochlear implants can restore the hearing in such cases.
The best way to prevent SSNHL is to avoid the risk factors including smoking, alcohol and prolonged exposure to loud noises. If you suffer from ear pain, consult a doctor immediately to prevent this from developing into a serious complication.
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