by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency. That is not in doubt. What is in doubt is how doctors should best treat sudden hearing loss.
Treatment for sudden hearing loss currently includes steroids, antiviral medications, vasodilators, hyperbaric oxygen, and to a lesser extent, vitamins, minerals and herbs, Some ear specialists choose not to treat Sudden Hearing Loss at all—citing spontaneous recovery rates of between 32% and 70%. However, giving steroids such as Prednisone is by far the most popular treatment.
So what’s the problem? The shocking truth is that there is little scientific evidence that supports the use of Prednisone, or any other treatment for that matter, according to an analysis of 21 random studies done on Sudden Hearing Loss over the past 40 years according to researchers Drs. Anne Conlin and Lorne Parnes in Ontario, Canada.
In the studies they analyzed, the doctors found positive results reported for systemic steroids (pills), intratympanic steroids (injected through the eardrum), batroxobin (an anti-clotting agent), magnesium, vitamin E and hyperbaric oxygen. However, they also found serious limitations in each study that had a positive finding, thus throwing these results in doubt.
Drs. Conlin and Parnes wrote: “To our knowledge, no valid randomized controlled trial exists to determine effective treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss.” In other words, there is no proof that any treatment really works.
For example, after pooling the data that compared steroids with placebos, the results showed no difference between treatment groups, In addition, there was no difference in the results between people treated with antivirals plus steroids vs. those treated with placebos plus steroids. Nor was there any difference in the results between people treated with steroids vs. people treated with any other active treatment.
The authors conclude, “At present, sudden sensorineural hearing loss remains a medical emergency without a scientific understanding of its cause or a rational approach to its treatment.”
Therefore, until studies are done which prove what treatments (if any) are effective, you may be just as far ahead to do nothing and let nature take its course. The odds are good that your hearing will come back—at least partially, but if it doesn’t, the treatments your doctor would prescribe likely wouldn’t help you much either.
The problem is in knowing whether hearing came back because of the medical treatment, or in spite of it. The tendency is to think it was because of the treatment, but this apparently is not a good assumption at all.
However, if you feel you want to take the “shotgun approach” and try any or all the treatments in hopes that one will work for you, go right ahead. That is your prerogative. Just don’t expect miracles as there are still far too many unknowns about the effectiveness of any current treatments for Sudden Hearing Loss.
Extracted from the Archives of Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery (Vol. 133, No 6, 573-581 and 582-586).