Nov 012009

From the San Antonio Express 10/26/09

Ask UT Medicine

Q: I’m a 65-yearold female. During heart bypass surgery in 2008 I lost the hearing completely and forever in my right ear. Everything during the operation was without complications.

No one seems to know what happened. Have you heard of this happening before?

A : Sudden or rapid loss of hearing over a few hours to two days is called Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL) and is not an uncommon occurrence.

Approximately 4,000 new cases occur annually in the United States. This usually involves one ear only. The cause is not always known, but many investigators feel this is related to a viral infection, even though the only symptom may be a sudden loss of hearing. About half of the patients will have experienced a previous viral illness prior to the hearing loss. Some other less common causes include: autoimmune disease, tumor of the inner ear (rare), diabetes, Meniere’s disease, leukemia, sickle cell disease, vasculitis and embolization during coronary bypass surgery.

The treatment of sudden hearing loss is considered a medical urgency, first to discover the cause and then to provide treatment. It is not unusual to have an unknown cause.

There are many treatments proposed for sudden hearing loss. The most widely accepted treatment is corticosteroids such as Prednisone given orally over 10 to 14 days. The recovery of the hearing loss is about 58 percent to 62 percent.

Some patients will recover all of their hearing loss and some will not improve. Most spontaneous improvement occurs in the first two weeks after the onset. The prognosis is worse the longer the symptoms last. Patients who experience sudden hearing loss will be best helped if they seek medical attention as soon as possible from an ear, nose and throat specialist, or their primary care physician.

Dr. John Youngblood, clinical professor, Otology Send your medical questions to, or UT Medicine, S.A. Life, P.O. Box 217, San Antonio, TX 78297. UT Medicine is the clinical practice of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine. To make an appointment, call (210)450-9000.This column is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Matters regarding your health require medical supervision.

– Thanks to bhNEWS and NVRC, Fairfax