by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady explained,
I had a cold on Feb 17 and on Feb 22 I suddenly went deaf in my left ear. I went to my primary care doctor immediately and he prescribed Amoxicillin and Flonase. I was not told this hearing loss could be so serious. I saw an ENT on March 23 and was diagnosed with severe sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) in my left ear. I am on a high dose of Prednisone for the next 2 weeks and hoping for the best. My question is even though it has been 30 days is there a chance that some of my hearing will return? I would be happy for that.
There is always a chance, but in your case I’m afraid it is a very slim chance that your hearing will come back at this late date. I’m not God and thus can’t see into the future. However, here are some things for you to consider.
First, sometimes hearing comes back spontaneously, without any treatment. Sometimes hearing comes back because of a given treatment such as taking Prednisone. And sometimes hearing never comes back in spite of any treatment.
Thus, taking Prednisone sometimes works, so it is worth a try. However, having said that, Prednisone works better if taken in the days right after the sudden hearing loss. It becomes less and less effective as the days go by. Typically, by the time 30 days has gone by, Prednisone doesn’t do much if anything. So your beginning the Prednisone right around the 30-day mark is really a “last ditch” measure. The chances of it doing much are slim—but there is still a chance. You’ll know the outcome in a couple of weeks.
I also have 3 rules of thumb that will give you some indications of what you might expect.
1. The greater the sudden hearing loss, the less likely it is that your hearing will return. You now have a severe hearing loss. Thus, the chances of hearing coming back are much less than if you had a mild hearing loss, for example.
2. The sooner hearing begins returning, the greater the chances that most hearing will return. For example, if you notice that after 2 or 3 days your lost hearing is beginning to return and continues to return a bit more each day, then you have an excellent chance of getting all/most of your hearing back. However, if no hearing seems to be coming back in the days and weeks after the sudden hearing loss, then the chances of any/much coming back are very slim.
3. The hearing you have at 30 days after the sudden hearing loss is the hearing you will be left with for the rest of your life. There are two exceptions to this. One is if your hearing had been slowly coming back in the previous 30 days, it may continue to come back even after 30 days, but in this case, you’ll already have significant hearing returned by the 30 days. The second exception is a miracle. Rarely, hearing suddenly comes back beyond 30 days, but this is not common.
Those are my three rules of thumb. Think of them as a guide to what typically happens.
So what do I see happening in your case? You’re not going to like it—but I will tell you the truth as I see it (as I always do). Since you didn’t mention any hearing coming back in the past 30 days, and since you started the Prednisone after 30 days, I really don’t see much of your hearing coming back at this point.
Thus, if the Prednisone doesn’t do anything, I think it will be time for you to go from trying to get your hearing back, to learning how to successfully live with one deaf ear.
Depending on how bad the hearing loss is in your left ear, and if your discrimination score for that ear is still good, you may find that just wearing a regular hearing aid in your left ear is all you need.
However, if wearing a hearing aid in your deaf ear isn’t effective, you might want to try wearing a CROS hearing aid which will take sounds from your deaf side and pipe them to your good ear so you can hear them. This works very well if you often have people talking to you from your deaf side. For example, if you are typically the passenger in a car, you will have difficulty hearing the driver speaking because your good ear is against the passenger side door and picking up road noise. A CROS aid will pick up the driver’s voice (you wear what looks like a hearing aid on your left ear that picks up the sounds and transmits them wirelessly to a corresponding “hearing aid” you wear on your right ear) and let you hear it in your right ear. Instead of a CROS aid, you might want to consider a BAHA aid (BAHA stands for Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid).
You also want to learn the “tricks of the trade” for single-sided deafness. For example, if you are in a classroom or at church, you want to sit on the left side of the room so your good ear “faces” into the room. You will hear much better that way than sitting on the right side.
I wish you well as you deal with this unexpected problem in your life.