Sudden Hearing Loss – First National Guidelines Published

Posted by: admin on: April 6, 2012

Sudden hearing loss is a condition which sends thousands of individuals in the United States to the emergency room each year.


  • The first national treatment guideline for sudden hearing loss has been developed by a panel of 19 medical experts led by Robert J Stachler, MD, an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.
  • Dr Stachler said “In most cases, patients will have multiple visits with several physicians and undergo extensive testing before a diagnosis is made. There’s also been a lack of one or more uniformly accepted treatments, or a consensus on how to counsel patients who do fully recover their hearing.
  • By focusing on opportunities for quality improvement, the guideline should improve diagnosis, reduce unnecessary tests and imaging procedures, and improve hearing for patients affected by sudden hearing loss.”
  • The team of experts developed the guideline after examining the literature and reaching a consensus for patient diagnosis, management and follow-up care.

Sudden Hearing Loss

  • Sudden hearing loss is a rapid loss of hearing in one or both ears which can happen to an individual all at once or over a period of up to 3 days.
  • Usually, patients report that their ear feels full or blocked.
  • Dr Stachler notes that as symptoms of sudden hearing loss are so prevalent and non-specific, evaluation and treatment are often delayed in several cases.
  • Sudden hearing loss can be caused by a range of issues, such as infectious diseases, head trauma, Meniere’s disease, and circulatory problems.
  • The new guideline, which is intended for all clinicians who see patients aged 18+, includes:
    1. Information for patients regarding the benefits and risks of medical intervention
    2. Recommendations to assist clinicians in determining whether a patient with sudden hearing loss is suffering from conductive hearing loss or from sensorineural hearing loss. Although both are common causes of hearing loss, they have extremely different treatment strategies.
    3. Recommendations advising clinicians to not order computerized tomography (CT) of the head/brain as part of the initial patient assessment.
    4. A range of amplification and hearing assistive technology available to those patients with incomplete recovery of hearing.
  • Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), a subset of sudden hearing loss is also covered in the guideline. Each year in the United States approximately 4,000 new cases of SSNHL are reported. Even though, the majority of patients recover completely without the need for medical intervention roughly 15% of patients with SSNHL experience progressive hearing loss over time.

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