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Sudden Sensoneural Hearing Loss: A Rather Personal PSA  

If something seems wrong in regard to your hearing, you might be suffering from Sudden Sensoneural Hearing Loss. Our Sr. Headphone Editor shares his very recent discovery.

ENT Ear Exam Glitched

Imagine if your entire world changed within the span of 24 hours.

I don’t usually write public service announcements but this one is rather personal and affects a huge part of my life.

Those that know me are aware that I am very serious about protecting my hearing; and not just because of my role as Sr. Headphone Editor at this publication. I own multiple types of hearing protection and always wear them when working with power tools, attending live music, and when commuting for work; which often involves flying a few times per month. I have maintained a consistent schedule of having my hearing tested every 6 months and have a cleaning routine that was prescribed by my ENT.

If you don’t do either one of those — you need to start.

Why am I telling you this?

The other morning, I woke up partially deaf. I came to the realization that I awakened with no hearing on the left side below 1.5kHz, and with an odd ringing sensation in that ear. It created what felt like an echo chamber-effect for the voices and sounds that I could hear through both ears.

What made matters worse, was that I was out of town and couldn’t immediately see my physician. Every single time my ear popped on the airplane, I knew that it was one more nail in the coffin for that ear.

We have been conditioned to believe that hearing loss sneaks up on people and that the damage occurs gradually enough that in many cases, people don’t even realize that it was happening. I’ve also heard that hearing loss starts in the top end of the auditory spectrum and that you gradually begin to lose hearing in the rest of the spectrum.

So color me confused when I went from being able to hear perfectly fine one day to having major difficulty the next and that it was the low frequencies that were suddenly missing.

I also wondered if it could be pressure on the back of the eardrum that was preventing it from moving freely; which would explain the impact on the low end and the sudden onset of hearing loss.

None of that proved to be the case.

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Once I was back at home, we made the first available appointment with my ENT who ran hearing tests; which confirmed what I had suspected in one regard but the rest of the explanation took me completely by surprise.

My assessment of my hearing loss was almost perfectly correct in regard to the range that I could no longer hear. The reason behind this scary chain of events was something else.

Sudden Sensoneural Hearing Loss

I was diagnosed with Sudden Sensoneural Hearing Loss (SSHL) which impacts about one in every 5000 people annually for people aged 40 to 60.  It is less common outside of that age group, but not impossible to see in children or the extremely elderly so it pays to know something about it regardless of your age.   

It has nothing to do with fluid build-up and is instead an issue with the nerve and can result in partial or total deafness literally in the matter of a second.  It usually only strikes one ear at any given moment but cases of both ears dropping out at once are not unheard of.    

Causes of SSHL vary widely, and for most of us, an exact reason for why it happened or the timing of it remains somewhat debatable. It can be triggered by viruses, but can also be triggered by a host of other things and there are other conditions like Ménière’s disease that can mimic SSHL and make diagnosis primarily symptom based.

The good news is that it is treatable and there is a good chance that at least some recovery is possible if treated quickly.   

The bad news is that the longer between the loss and the treatment, the less likely that recovery becomes and treatment is both intense and involved. The treatment involves very potent steroids that are administered both orally and through a series of 6 shots (with 3-4 days between each) injected through the ear-drum into the middle ear and allowed to seep into the inner-ear where it can act directly on the nerve.

Where Are We?

I’m half way through my 6 shots and any gains thus far have been very small.  

I was also advised that even with intense treatment, it can take months to recover fully, or to whatever level of recovery is going to happen. That last part scares me.    

The upside is that I do occasionally hear something lower than 1.5 kHz on that side which makes me hopeful. The downside is that it is not happening with enough regularity at this point for me to know how much recovery has genuinely taken place.

Why am I writing this? It certainly isn’t to generate sympathy but to warn others to pay attention to this issue. If you have sudden hearing loss for any reason, don’t assume it is seasonal allergies, a sinus infection, or some other ordinary malady.  

The sooner steroid treatment is started the more of your hearing you are likely to recover and every day without treatment both reduces the amount of hearing recoverable and the likelihood that you will get it back.   

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Most of us know to protect our hearing with earplugs when in noisy environments, but may not think about partial hearing loss since we experience some degree of it every time we have a head cold or pollen counts rise beyond a certain level.   

If you have any doubts, go as soon as possible and make sure seasonal allergy or sinusitis is all that is going on. If it is — you can breathe a sigh of relief, and if it is not, you can begin treatment that much sooner and hope to recover as much as possible.

We will certainly keep you posted as to my progress but use my experience as a wake-up call. Protect your hearing and remember to take action as soon as you notice that something is really wrong. It could make the difference between recovery and losing the ability to hear and enjoy music (among other things) for the rest of your life.

Related Study: Mild COVID-19 May be Linked to Sudden Hearing Loss



  1. ORT

    April 24, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    It is not sympathy your words have generated but rather concern for your well being and gratitude for your speaking on a rare condition that could instantly affect any one of us.

    In all ways and for always, be well my friend.


  2. GM

    April 25, 2023 at 12:10 am

    Best of luck. I hope that you are able to make a full recovery ASAP.

  3. SK

    April 25, 2023 at 8:42 am

    I totally understand you as I had the same symptoms in my left ear a little more than a decade ago. I have been through the same treatment (intravenous cortisone injections) for 4 days in a hospital with subsequent cortisone pills for about a couple of weeks after that. My hearing has fully recovered now and I hope the same for you too. Don’t loose hope.

  4. Jason

    April 25, 2023 at 11:00 am

    Same thing happened to me. Woke up one morning and my left ear was hearing strange things, muffled kinda robotic sounds. I also would have tinnitus. Right away I got the steroid shots and oral steroids. It didnt seem to do much. Music is everything and I started to get depressed. My wife suggested i try acupuncture. Did 5 sessions. The acupuncturist told me that the tinnitus would get worse before it got better. After the 5 sessions what he said turned out to be true. It took a couple months and my hearing started to improve. Im very pleased with my outcome. My hearing isn’t 100 percent in the left ear more like 90 but the weird tones are gone and I can enjoy music like I used to.

  5. Catherine Lugg

    April 25, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    I’m terribly sorry this has happened to you. I have asymmetrical hearing loss–the combination of heredity and my early days as a professional musician. Hearing aids have helped tremendously, but you want the original equipment to work as well as possible. Good luck getting through the treatment and I hope things will SOON be back to normal.

    • Ian White

      April 25, 2023 at 1:49 pm


      Greatly appreciate the your kind words and that of our readership. Will is a fantastic wealth of knowledge and excellent judge of headphone technology. He really understands it better than most.

      He’s undergoing treatment and we’re all praying for him. He’s going to be focused on more technical articles and news items in the category for the time being. He’s a huge part of the team here and very well respected within the Head-Fi community.


      Ian White

      • Trevor Wiebe

        April 30, 2023 at 3:08 pm

        Is this yet another syndrome that is occurring with much greater frequency since the jab rollout? That would be good to know — one more reason to avoid experimental drugs. 1 in 5000 still?

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