Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Sudden Hearing Loss

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Apr 2019
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What is sudden hearing loss?

Most of the time, hearing loss happens gradually, over many years. But sometimes, hearing loss happens suddenly, within a few hours or overnight.

  • Sudden hearing loss usually happens in only one ear

  • You may also have other symptoms, such as ringing in your ears, dizziness, or feeling like you’re spinning (vertigo)

  • Most often, doctors don't find a reason for sudden hearing loss

  • Sometimes, sudden hearing loss is caused by a very loud noise, severe head injury, infection, or use of certain medicines

  • In a few weeks, about half of people get all their hearing back and many others get some hearing back

See a doctor right away if you have sudden hearing loss.

What causes sudden hearing loss?

Most often, doctors can't find a cause for sudden hearing loss.

When there is a cause, it's usually something obvious like:

  • A sudden, very loud noise, such as an explosion or gunshot

  • A bad head injury

  • A sudden, severe pressure change in the ear (such as from air travel or scuba diving)

  • Certain medicines that have the side effect of damaging your hearing

What will happen at my doctor visit?

Doctors will ask questions about your hearing loss and do a physical exam. They usually do:

Depending on your examination and hearing tests, doctors may also do:

How do doctors treat sudden hearing loss?

Doctors treat any health problem that's causing your hearing loss. If they can't tell what's causing your hearing loss, they may try giving you:

  • Corticosteroids by mouth or as a shot in your ear

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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