Sudden nerve deafness, or sensorineural hearing loss as it’s also known, can be very distressing for the sufferer. Unfortunately a lot of cases do not point towards a cause and how the condition started remains a mystery. There are, however, a few clinically proven causes of nerve deafness that doctors will look out for when they come across a case, and the treatments for them may allow a certain degree of hearing recovery, or the prevention of further hearing loss.
Nerve deafness can be congenital, i.e. present from birth due to the absence of the acoustic nerve itself, or the tiny hair-like nerves that pick up sound inside the cochlea. The cochlea may also be absent or malformed, but there are also many possible causes of the onset nerve deafness later on in life too. Firstly, a doctor assessing a patient with nerve deafness will want to rule out trauma to the inner ear. This can come from loud noises, usually anything over 90 decibels and experienced for a long period of time, or even physical trauma such as hitting the side of the head very hard. Once these have been ruled out the doctor will most likely investigate viral infections as the cause. Anything from as minor as recurrent chicken pox to anything as severe as meningitis can cause nerve deafness, and since there are many viruses that have no definitive treatment or antiviral drugs a diagnosis should be sought quickly. Mumps, measles and syphilis can also be causes. Testing for these infections will probably involve blood and possibly urine samples as well as listening to the chest and taking blood pressure readings.
It is possible, although extremely rare, for brain tumors to be the cause of nerve deafness. If the exact cause of the deafness is undiagnosed and/or the patient exhibits symptoms of a tumor then obviously they should be tested and treated accordingly. Patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer are at risk of suffering nerve damage, which of course can affect the acoustic nerve and cause nerve deafness too. Although it’s also very rare, there are certain drugs (both medical and illegal) that can cause sensorineural deafness. These include various antibiotics such as tobramycin and diuretics used for hypertension such as furosemide.
It should not be ignored that nerve deafness is not always the result of an underlying illness or cause. This type of hearing loss can also be attributed quite simply to old age, where the inner mechanics of the ear simply degenerate. With this type of hearing loss, however, the onset is usually very gradual and non severe.
There are many avenues of treatment that can be sought for people experiencing sensorineural hearing loss. Unfortunately there is usually more hope of full hearing recovery for those with slowly progressing hearing loss than those with sudden deafness, but that doesn’t mean to say there is nothing that can be done. As with any condition affecting the body and a person’s quality of life, early symptoms should be investigated early, and fast to prevent any further damage occurring.