Sudden Sensori-Neural Hearing Loss (SSNHL)

Sudden hearing loss is regarded as a medical emergency and it is important to have your hearing assessed urgently by a diagnostic audiologist.

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If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, it is imperative that you have an urgent hearing assessment to determine the type and degree of the hearing loss.

Please call the clinic at 01-2937930 or email the clinic at or use the website contact page and the audiologists at Beacon Audiology will carry out an urgent hearing assessment and make the necessary referral to ENT if indicated.

Sudden Sensori-Neural Hearing Loss (SSNHL), commonly known as sudden deafness is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing, either all at once or over a few days. SSNHL affects the inner ear or the sensory organ. Sudden hearing loss frequently affects only one ear.

People with sudden hearing loss often delay seeing a doctor because they put their hearing loss down to either a blocked ear due to wax build-up, allergies, a sinus infection, or other common conditions.

However, you should consider sudden hearing loss a medical emergency and consult a doctor immediately as well as arrange an urgent appointment with an audiologist to assess the type and degree of hearing loss.

Some people with Sudden Sensori-Neural Hearing Loss (SSNHL) recover some or all their hearing spontaneously, usually within one to two weeks from onset. However, delaying a SSNHL diagnosis and treatment (when warranted) can have an impact on the success of the treatment and the recovery of hearing.

It is possible in some cases to reverse the sensori-neural hearing loss when an urgent treatment regime is followed within 24-72 hours of developing the sudden hearing loss. The administration of oral corticosteroids, providing there are no contra-indications, and immediate referral to an ENT Consultant for trans-tympanic corticosteroids, is the recommended treatment pathway to reverse the sensori-neural hearing loss.

SSNHL can occur between one and six people per 5,000 every year, but the actual number of new SSNHL cases each year could be much higher because SSNHL often goes undiagnosed. SSNHL can happen to people at any age, but most often affects adults in their late 40s and early 50s.

The most common causes for SSNHL are viral infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, blood circulation problems, neurological diseases, and disorders of the inner ear.

If you experience a sudden hearing loss in one ear, please consult your GP or ENT specialist within 24 hours of noticing the hearing loss and have an urgent hearing assessment to determine the nature of the hearing loss (to rule out a conductive component to the hearing loss) or to confirm a sensori-neural component to the hearing loss. The chances of reversing the hearing loss are greater when the treatment is administered 24-72 hours after noticing the hearing loss.

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Frequently asked questions about Adult Hearing Assessments

  • An audiologist can diagnose an ear infection, but they cannot treat an ear infection. Any ear pain should be reported to your GP or Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant if applicable, for treatment.