Most types of hearing loss in adulthood cause gradual hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss as adults can occur by a known cause or due to sudden hearing loss syndrome, also called sudden sensorineural hearing loss syndrome or sudden deafness. Some cases of sudden hearing loss are treatable, while others cause permanent hearing loss.

Sudden hearing loss syndrome usually affects only one ear. The person may not notice the hearing loss immediately. Many cases of sudden hearing loss become evident when the person tries the use the phone with the effected ear or lies on the unaffected ear. Some cases of sudden deafness begin with the individual hearing a loud pop in the effected ear.

Idiopathic sudden hearing loss syndrome is often considered a medical emergency with no known cause and no effective standard treatment. The common treatment for idiopathic sudden hearing loss syndrome has been systemic steroids. Researchers have challenged the study on which this treatment is based. In a more recent study, steroids did not show any more improvement of the condition than a placebo did.

The hearing loss from sudden hearing loss syndrome is not usually permanent. Some people with sudden hearing loss syndrome recover spontaneously. Most people recover at least some of their lost hearing. About fifteen percent of the cases of sudden hearing loss syndrome worsen over time.

Sudden hearing loss as adults can have an obvious cause. Hearing loss could be caused by a traumatic head injury if the temporal bone has been fractured or the structures of the ear or auditory nerve are damaged. If the hearing loss is from a punctured eardrum, the damage to the eardrum can repair itself if it is not severe. A large perforation may need to be surgically repaired.

There are numerous possible causes of sudden hearing loss as adults. People who have taken a medication that is toxic to ear tissue or have been exposed to toxic chemicals could develop sudden hearing loss. Some diseases, abnormal growths, neurological conditions, and circulatory problems may increase the person’s risk of sudden hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss as adults usually affects people between the ages of thirty and sixty.

Sudden hearing loss should be considered a medical emergency and treatment should be sought immediately. The chance for recovery may be better if emergency medical treatment is obtained.