Sudden hearing loss (SNHL)

What is sudden hearing loss?

As the name suggests, sudden sensorineural hearing loss is the rapid loss of hearing in the ear. The period of deterioration can vary from a period of hours, up to three days. The deterioration Is usually very obvious to the person, especially if they wake up with the hearing loss, The hearing loss usually occurs in one ear, and can vary in severity. This type of hearing loss may be temporary Or permanent.

Other symptoms

Distortion of sounds in the poorer hearing ear.

Tinnitus - aringing or buzzing in the ears.

Jmbalance, dizziness.

A blocked or full feeling in the ear (aural fullness).


Feelings of anxiety.


What causes it?

There are a multitude of possible causes; some are listed below - however, in many cases, the specific

cause of the hearing loss remains unknown.

  • Idiopathic (unknown)
  • Viral infections of the cochlea
  •  Blood circulation problems
  •  Immune disorders
  •  Metabolic causes
  •  Ototoxic medications
  •  Trauma or head injury 
  • Will my hearing come back?

The best chance you have is if you act quickly. Correct diagnosis and treatment within 7 days is best. Recovery of hearing can take 1-2 weeks, but there are cases where It has taken 12 months of gradual Improvement.

What should I do?

Seek medical assistance from your doctor or hospital who will likely administer steroids. Steroids have been shown to significantly improve the recovery of hearing. They work by reducing inflammation and swelling of the cochlea. Follow the instructions given to you by your medical professional. If the hearing does not fully recover, it is important to protect your remaining hearing  (see our Fact Sheet on Noise induced hearing loss). A hearing aid or other assistive listening device may benefit you if the hearing loss remains.