Waking up with reduced or completely absent hearing in just one ear may not seem like much of an emergency. It's tempting to just wait out the muffled or clogged sensations because you assume they're a minor issue and will pass on their own, especially if you're sick with a cold or other illness. But waiting to have a sudden loss of hearing in one ear treated by an ear nose and throat doctor can lead to permanent deafness and other serious issues. Find out why sudden hearing loss should be treated as an emergency.
Limited Time Frame for Treatment
For all kinds of temporary and permanent causes of deafness, there's a common treatment window in which prompt care from an ear, nose, and throat specialist or audiologist can save your hearing and prevent further damage. But this window is a mere 24 to 48 hours. This means you may need to see an emergency doctor if your hearing loss occurs during the weekend or over a holiday. Waiting even 12 hours too long to seek out a diagnosis and treatment can result in permanent hearing loss or reduction.
Gradual hearing loss is far more common, but sudden hearing loss is generally caused by very serious conditions. Some potential causes of a sudden loss of hearing on just one side of the head may include a tumor located in or near the inner ear, damage to the inner ear due to medication or trauma, life threatening bacterial infections like meningitis, blood clots and other circulation issues, and more. Your treatment for hearing loss may reveal a life-threatening condition in time for prompt treatment so you can return to a happy and healthy life. Waiting a few days to see if the problem will clear up could result in death.
There are also many common ear problems that can trigger a partial or complete hearing loss on one side. It's impossible to tell on your own whether you're dealing with serious damage or a ball of earwax. Yet even these common blockages and minor infections can quickly grow into bigger problems and damage the sensitive inner ear. All causes of hearing loss should be treated quickly since they don't usually clear up on their own.
Testing and Prevention
Finally, routine ear inspections can catch the early warning signs of the conditions that cause sudden hearing loss. If you depend on your hearing for your work or daily life, schedule at least one aural checkup a year.