Corticosteroids May Be Best for Sudden Hearing Loss
The drugs can be started after an examination to rule out life-threatening causes
FRIDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss, an examination to rule out life-threatening causes should be performed, after which a short-course of corticosteroids may be the best treatment, though no treatment has been proven, according to a seminar article published in the April 3 issue of The Lancet.
Benjamin E. Schreiber, of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust in London, and colleagues write that sudden sensorineural hearing loss typically occurs from the ages of 50 to 60, is usually unilateral, and is often associated with tinnitus and vertigo. A specific cause is found in about 10 percent of patients. Some viruses have been linked to the condition.
The authors further note that, in suspected cases of sensorineural hearing loss, patients should undergo a careful examination to rule out life-threatening causes, and patients with confirmed cases should then be referred to an otolaryngologist or audiovestibular specialist. After life-threatening causes are ruled out, oral corticosteroids may be the best treatment option, though evidence supporting these drugs is limited. Roughly half of patients recover completely, usually in about two weeks. However, patients who have no change within two weeks are unlikely to have much recovery.
"Patients with sudden hearing loss presenting to general practice should be assessed with a minimum of pure tone audiometry (with air and bone conduction thresholds), and those with sensorineural hearing loss should be urgently referred to a specialist," the authors conclude. "We recommend that patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss with no clear underlying cause after investigation are treated with a short course of oral prednisolone started within two weeks after onset."