Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss is a medically urgent condition.  Usually occurring “out of the blue” for the patient, sudden loss may be caused by viral infection, breaks of delicate structures within the inner ear, trauma (a blow to the ear, or airline flight for example), an interruption in the blood supply of the cochlea, brain tumors, and many more rare causes.

Prompt evaluation and treatment increases the chance of restoring hearing. Complete medical work-up is important to rule out serious causes. Audiologic testing, auditory brainstem responses, and CT scan or MR imaging are often used in the evaluation of this condition.  In up to 70% of cases, treatment produces a partial or full return of hearing status.  


Depending on the cause, treatment often consists of oral medications as well as delivering steroids directly to the inner ear.  Early initiation of medical therapy increases the chance of hearing return.