What is sudden hearing loss?Sudden hearing loss may affect one or both ears and can be either a conductive hearing loss or a sensorineural hearing loss, depending on which parts of your ear(s) are affected. It can happen instantly or over the course of a few weeks (despite the word ‘sudden’) and may be accompanied by tinnitus or balance problems. How your hearing recovers will depend on the cause and severity of the problem.
What should I do if I have sudden hearing loss?
If you have sudden hearing loss, see your GP straight away so they can rule out a temporary cause, such as a build-up of wax. If there is no obvious cause, ask your GP for an urgent referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. If you can't see your GP for any reason, you should go to your nearest accident and emergency department. At the hospital, an ENT specialist should carry out detailed tests to assess the degree and type of hearing loss you have. You may need to stay in hospital for appropriate treatment, or you may be treated as an outpatient.
What can cause sudden hearing loss?
Causes of sudden hearing loss include:
How do I come to terms with it?
Losing your hearing suddenly can be a traumatic experience, particularly if the loss is severe and you also have tinnitus or balance problems. If your hearing doesn't recover you will need time to come to terms with the change. You will also need help from professionals, friends, family and work colleagues. Our Deafness and hearing loss forum is on online community full of tips and information from people who may have gone through a similar experience.
If your partner, relative or a close friend can go with you on your visits to your ENT specialist or audiologist, they can learn about ways they can make communication easier for you.
How will sudden hearing loss affect my ability to work?
If you have lost your hearing and are already working, or if you are looking for work, our employment advice service can support you into training and job placements as well as employment. Contact our Information Line for details.
At work, your employer has a duty under the Equality Act to make adjustments and provide equipment and support to help you work to your full potential. See our factsheet The Equality Act 2010 - your rights as an employee.
What else can help?
If your hearing loss does not improve you may benefit from: