Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss
People who have not experienced sudden hearing loss are generally unable to imagine the impact this terrifying condition can have on a person's life. Many who are stricken with sudden and unexpected hearing loss are young and free of the pre-existing medical conditions that are often associated as causes of sudden hearing loss.
Fortunately, the vast majority of cases of sudden hearing loss are unilateral (affecting only one ear), and the prognosis is usually good for some extent of hearing recovery. In fact, about one-third of patients who experience this condition are likely to re-gain hearing completely within a few weeks, whether they are medically treated or not. In other cases, the hearing impairment or total loss is permanent.
The primary cause of sudden hearing loss in adults is an inner ear disorder and is often accompanied by vertigo, which is a severe disruption in physical balance. It is our ears that keep balanced on our feet; when vertigo strikes, we are prone to severe imbalance and falls. One cause of sudden hearing loss that is contained within this category is vasospasms, which involves the involuntary spasm of the veins and capillaries of the inner ear. Vasospasms lead to an ischemic stroke of the inner ear, resulting in traumatic, instant deafness in the affected ear.
What Causes Sudden Hearing Loss?
Another unusual but authentic cause of sudden hearing loss is through Conversion Disorder, a mental illness that is characterized by the loss of limb functioning, loss of vision, or loss of hearing; no medical cause is found for these unexplained losses of functioning.
In Conversion Disorder, both ears are usually affected. With psychiatric intervention, hearing is usually restored although some cases remain life-long. Meniere's disease is another cause of sudden hearing loss; a disorder of the inner ear that is characterized by sudden or progressive hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus (ringing of the ears). It is caused by an increase in volume and pressure in the inner ear. Some sufferers of Meniere's disease experience "drop attacks," a sudden deafness and dizziness that causes the sufferer to fall to the ground, and they are unable to rise until the attack is over.
Physical trauma to the ears can cause both sudden and progressive hearing loss. Music historians believe that head trauma through child abuse caused a sudden and progressive hearing loss in Ludwig Van Beethoven that rendered him completely deaf for most of his adult life.
Similarly, art historians believe that when Vincent Van Gogh cut off one of his ears to send to his lover as a token of his affection, he caused sudden deafness in that ear due to physical trauma. His painting "Starry Night" is said to be a reflection of his hearing loss and vertigo.
Barakat syndrome is a rare inherited condition that can cause sudden hearing loss in both ears. The hearing loss can be mild to profound. There are many medical conditions, unrelated to the ears, that cause sudden attacks of Barakat syndrome, but the primary culprit appears to be renal (kidney) disease. The prognosis of regaining hearing function in this syndrome depends upon the severity of the renal disease.
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