The Link Between Sudden Hearing Loss and Anxiety, Depression

June 8, 2018

Hearing loss of sudden onset, known as idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, is a potentially catastrophic medical condition characterized as a sensorineural hearing loss of sudden onset of at least 30 dB in three sequential frequencies over a period of three days or less. According to Taiwanese epidemiological data, the annual incidence rates of sudden sensorineural hearing loss in male and female individuals are 8.85 and 7.79 per 100 000 persons, respectively.

Although hearing loss of sudden onset can be alleviated or completely cured in some patients, hearing problems persist in approximately 60% or more of affected patients. While sudden sensorineural hearing loss has a high spontaneous recovery rate, some patients experience partial or no recovery from it.

Given the dramatic change in hearing and its associated effects on communication and overall quality of life, it is not surprising that a number of individuals afflicted with sudden sensorineural hearing loss find the condition to be significantly stressful, even life changing.


Depression, Anxiety and Hearing Loss


A study conducted by Korean otolaryngologists and published online May 31 at JAMA-Otolaryngology examined the relationship between sensorineural hearing loss of sudden onset and affective disorders, such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder  or depression.

Using the Korean National Health Insurance Service Database, the researchers examined almost 1500 patients diagnosed with sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss over an 11-year period. Jong-Yeup Kim of Hallym University College of Medicine and colleagues looked at the risk of developing affective disorder in adults diagnosed with sudden hearing loss.


Their results indicated the incidence of developing an affective disorder, like depression or anxiety, was 14.3 per 1000 persons/year compared to 9.1 per 1000 persons/year in individuals with normal hearing.


The study also showed that the likelihood of patients diagnosed with sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss also developing an affective disorder was higher in women and patients over the age of 45 years.


Findings Highlight Need for Multidisciplinary Approach to Care


The findings of this study are particularly relevant for hearing care professionals: Not only must individuals with a sensorineural hearing loss of sudden onset be referred immediately to an otolaryngologist, but given the increased odds of developing an affective disorder, these patients also should be monitored by clinical psychologists or psychiatrists.  

Further, these findings demonstrate that audiologists and hearing instrument specialists should adapt a team approach to patient management, involving a range of other medical specialties. Hearing care professionals need to be concerned with the whole person, not just the sudden loss of hearing is one ear.


*featured image courtesy pxhere

  1. The chances of reverting a SSNL is best within 48 hrs of the episode. There are patients who have also felt a return to normal hearing up to one month after the exposure, without treatment. The etiology is not clearly understood at this time..Hypoxia may be implicated. What is noticed is that the symptoms are localized within the petrous bone protecting the cochlea..Our area of study must focus on this specific anatomy, first, as to why the insult is so localized!

  2. I have studied the functions of the stria vascularis, and understand that the highest metabolic demands in the cochlea are required by this specific organ. The oxygen deprivation in this area could be catastrophic to this critical function of generating potassium ions .

Leave a Reply