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Sudden Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Sudden hearing loss can be confusing and alarming. If you’re experiencing sudden hearing loss or if your partner or child has come to you wondering, “Why is my hearing muffled?” then chances are you want answers. And quickly, too: in some circumstances, there is only a small window of about 2 weeks to recover from sudden hearing loss.

Understanding hearing loss causes and other aspects of hearing loss can help you determine which steps might be best to take in your particular situation. Before you jump to the worst conclusions, take a moment to learn more about hearing loss types, causes, symptoms, treatment, tests, and more.

What are the 3 types of hearing loss?

There are three common types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. These types of hearing loss are differentiated by the place in the ear where the hearing problems are coming from.


Conductive hearing loss occurs in the middle and outer ear. This type of hearing loss generally prevents sound from moving from the outside of the ear to the inner ear (the place where the Cochlea and auditory nerves translate sound into information for the brain).


Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the Cochlea (the tiny hairs that help translate sounds into electrical impulses) and/or the auditory nerve are damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent, but if treated quickly, the damage can potentially be minimized.


Mixed hearing loss can occur when a patient has hearing loss due to both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. For example, a patient who has both earwax buildup (conductive) and a traumatic ear injury (sensorineural) would have mixed hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss can have both conductive and sensorineural causes, although the latter is more likely to be the case.

Some doctors believe there are actually four different types of hearing loss. These doctors also include auditory processing disorders, where the brain’s ability to process sound and/or speech is impaired.  

What is the most common cause of hearing loss?

Overall, the most common cause of hearing loss is age. The next culprits in line are injury and frequent exposure to loud noise. These types of hearing loss are sensorineural and are typically irreversible.

Causes of conductive hearing loss

There are plenty of ways your ears can become blocked up. Some of the most common conductive hearing loss causes include:

  • Foreign objects inserted into the ear canal
  • Excessive wax buildup
  • Abnormal growths, including tumors and bone growth (otosclerosis)
  • Fluid or pus caused by ear infections
  • Swimmer’s ear
  • Eustachian tube syndrome

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

As stated above, the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is aging. The following is a list of other common causes of sensorineural hearing loss:

  • Injury
  • Heredity
  • Exposure to loud sound for long periods of time
  • Viral infections, diseases, and conditions: measles, mumps, scarlet fever, meningitis, Meniere's disease, blood vessel diseases, autoimmune diseases, shingles, diabetes, and obesity
  • Abnormal growths and tumors in the inner ear
  • Certain medications (ototoxic drugs)

What about sudden hearing loss?

Sudden hearing loss is almost always sensorineural. However, the sensorineural hearing loss described above typically occurs gradually, and sudden hearing loss will usually occur if these causes are encountered in the extreme.

Can stress cause you to lose your hearing?

Although it might sound strange, stress can negatively affect your hearing health. Stress and anxiety tend to have an impact on your circulation. Since the health of the tiny hairs responsible for translating sound into electrical impulses depends on circulation, excessive and chronic stress can lead to hearing loss. Stress is known to cause sudden hearing loss.   

Can hearing loss be a sign of a brain tumor?

Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows in the inner ear and towards the brain and can cause hearing loss. Luckily, this tumor is benign. With advances in treatment, these particular tumors can be detected early on and be removed.

What is the first sign of hearing loss?

Sensorineural and conductive hearing loss symptoms differ. Conductive hearing loss symptoms are often marked by pain or pressure in one or both of the ears. You ear may also produce a foul smell. Patients often note that they can hear out of one ear more easily than the other.

Sensorineural hearing loss symptoms include tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) and dizziness. Patients with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty following conversations and hearing in loud environments.

“Regular” hearing loss & sudden hearing loss treatment

Conductive hearing loss is often temporary and treatable. Treatments include the removal of abnormal growths and external objects, earwax extraction, or antibiotics. Other issues are usually treatable with surgery.

Treatment of sensorineural hearing loss does not typically result in fully restored hearing. However, with the advent of hearing aids and cochlear implants, your options for achieving better hearing have vastly improved.

Sudden hearing loss, when caught quickly and treated with corticosteroids, can result in successful or partially successful treatment. Again, sudden hearing loss is best treated within 2 weeks of its onset.

For either type of hearing loss, your doctor might administer a hearing loss test to measure the extent of your hearing loss and to determine how much your hearing capabilities have changed.

Sudden hearing loss solutions with Dr. Napoleon G. Bequer, MD

Most people are familiar with ENT treatment for sinusitis, but an ENT doctor does more than treat patients living with chronic sinusitis and dealing with chronic sinusitis problems. The “E” in ENT doctor is for “ear,” and it’s there for a reason.

While you may have heard of Dr. Bequer via sinus doctor reviews, he is also experienced at diagnosing and treating hearing loss problems, as well as voice problems. He and his staff at Sinus Solutions of South Florida have cared for the hearing of hundreds of Floridians in the West Palm Beach area.

The sooner sudden hearing loss is treated, the better your chances of achieving restored hearing. In other words, don’t wait. Call us at 561-790-7744 or request a consultation online today.

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