We all know that turning the volume up too high or standing too close to speakers is going to permanently damage our hearing and once ringing occurs or we experience a sudden decrease in hearing, there is permanent damage. That is true. But what if that reaction is also partly protective?
A study in Australia shows that in mice those who were able to have a sudden hearing decrease reaction had a lower degree of permanent loss than those mice whose genes were alerted to deter that reaction. The researchers uncovered this by breeding mice to lack a specific gene thought to protect the inner ear. The mice in the control group and the specifically bred mice were then exposed to a moderately loud noise for a sustained time of twelve hours. Those mice whose genes were altered experienced less temporary effects but suffered more permanent damage. The results showed that although a sudden decrease in hearing and sudden increase in ringing (tinnitus) means that there is damage, it could have been worse.
People who are experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) should consult their physician right away. SSHL can also be linked to side effects to certain prescription medications and they should discuss discontinuing possible casual medications or if warranted, seeking a steroid treatment with their physician if medically appropriate. Some patients recover completely without medical intervention, often within the first three days, and others get better slowly over a one to two week period. David Kirkwood had published the Otolaryngology Foundation’s guidelines for SSHL last year.
The general rule to use is this: if the sudden sensorineural hearing loss from loud noise has been present for more than two weeks it will likely not recover on its own and it is time to seek a comprehensive audiological evaluation and consultation regarding amplification.
Jennifer Lamfers is originally from Miami, and acquired her undergraduate degree at The Florida State University. She moved to Phoenix for graduate school and completed her Clinical Doctorate in Audiology in 2010 at A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences. There she focused on amplification, pediatrics and vestibular testing. She has annually attended a Rotary Club medical mission trip “Ayúdeme a Escuchar” (“Help me to hear”) in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico.