What is sudden hearing loss?

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL) is a rapid-onset hearing loss that can occur in one or both ears. It typically happens over a few hours or days and requires immediate attention.

Symptoms of sudden hearing loss


People may experience ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the affected ear.

Rapid Onset

Sudden hearing loss, also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), typically develops rapidly over a few hours to 3 days.

Difficulty Understanding Speech

Difficulty comprehending other people’s speech, especially in noisy environments.

Unilateral Hearing Loss

It often affects only one ear and can be accompanied by a loud ringing or buzzing sound.

The cause of sudden hearing loss 

SSNHL differs from other types of hearing loss in a couple of important ways. Aside from its rapid onset, it is often idiopathic, meaning the cause is usually unknown. However, these are the most common predicted causes:

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Illnesses such as labyrinthitis and mumps can trigger sudden hearing loss.

Vascular Diseases

Conditions like hypertension and atherosclerosis can affect blood flow to the inner ear, leading to sudden hearing loss.

Ototoxic Medications

Certain drugs, including chemotherapy drugs and high doses of aspirin, can cause sudden hearing loss as a side effect.

Inner ear disorders

Conditions like Meniere’s disease

Physical Trauma

Head injuries from accidents or contact sports can result in sudden hearing loss.

Treating sudden hearing loss

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible for a thorough examination to seek medical treatment with an ENT specialist, while running a diagnostic tests with an audiologist. If medical treatment isn’t sufficient, the use of a hearing aid may be a suitable option.


Psychological support and counseling are crucial for addressing the emotional impact of sudden hearing loss.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

The window to restore hearing closes two to four weeks after the onset of the hearing loss. After that short window, without treatment, the hearing loss will likely become permanent and irreversible.

Recovery Timelines

The recovery period varies from person to person, and some individuals may experience a spontaneous recovery within the first two weeks.

Prevention of Sudden Hearing Loss

Protective Measures

Using ear protection in loud environments and during activities such as concerts and shooting sports can prevent damage to the auditory system.

Healthy Lifestyle

Managing underlying health conditions like hypertension and diabetes can reduce the risk of vascular-related sudden hearing loss.