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Sudden hearing loss signs: How stress can put a strain on your hearing

It happens without notice: Suddenly you hear worse in one ear, you may feel an uncomfortable pressure in the ear canal or it beeps unbearably. Does it sound familiar to you? Then you may have had a sudden hearing loss. We reveal here how you can recognize a hearing loss and how you can prevent it.

For many people, stress has become a permanent condition. But the body does not always go along with this prolonged stress without complaint. Sometimes the abdomen rebels and a stomach ulcer forms, sometimes the head is pounding from migraines or tension headaches.If you suddenly hear worse in one ear, you feel a feeling of pressure in the ear canal, maybe even noises in the ear, such as whistling and hissing, you may have been hit: These symptoms indicate sudden hearing loss, also known as an ear attack. According to the German Tinnitus League, around 150,000 people suffer from it every year.

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Causes, Signs & Symptoms of Sudden Hearing Loss: Hearing Loss in One Ear

How do you recognize a sudden hearing loss? It feels as if someone has stuffed cotton wool in your ear: noises suddenly sound muffled or distorted, the auricle seems to be covered with a strange fur. A sudden hearing loss results in mild to severe hearing loss or even complete deafness in one ear. Both ears are extremely rarely affected. It is typical of sudden hearing loss that there is no identifiable cause of the problem. For example, you weren't exposed to a loud bang before the sudden hearing loss set in in one ear. Other symptoms of sudden hearing loss may include dizziness, tinnitus, and sensitivity to noise. Pain is usually not one of them.

What happens in your inner ear if you have a sudden hearing loss?

As always, the sound first reaches the middle ear via the ear canal and is then transported to the inner ear with the help of the eardrum and the ossicles. The inner ear has the task of converting acoustic stimuli into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain - and this does not work properly in patients with hearing loss. We do not yet know exactly why this is so. Doctors suspect that a circulatory disorder is probably to blame: the cochlea in the inner ear is not supplied with sufficient nutrients so that it cannot do its job - transmitting information to the brain - properly. The result is sudden unilateral hearing loss.

Time is ear! Act quickly when diagnosed: Severe sudden hearing loss

And where does this circulatory disorder come from? There are various underlying diseases that can damage the vessels in the inner ear. For example diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. In addition, inflammation, bacterial and viral infections are discussed as possible causes. A high cholesterol level, obesity, smoking and psychological stress are also risk factors that can promote sudden hearing loss.

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A sudden hearing loss can also be caused by stress. Your ENT doctor will diagnose “sudden hearing loss”: He will take a close look at your ear canal and eardrum and carry out a hearing test. After all, sudden hearing loss is not always the cause of unilateral hearing loss - sometimes a foreign body, water in the ear or a plug of earwax block the transmission of sound. In addition, ear injuries can lead to hearing problems.

If you actually have a sudden hearing loss, your ENT doctor will advise you on potential therapy. In mild cases it is possible to wait and see whether the symptoms of sudden hearing loss resolve on their own. A mild sudden hearing loss is therefore not an emergency. If the hearing loss is severe, if you already have a damaged ear or if dizziness and balance disorders join the acute hearing loss, you should act quickly.

The golden rule applies: "Time is ear"! This means: the sooner you start treatment in such a severe case, the better - otherwise permanent damage, such as hearing loss or beeping noises in the ears, may be left behind.

Treatment methods - the best acute hearing loss therapy: "Just take it easy!"

Since the problems occur without any recognizable external cause, there is no specific therapy for sudden hearing loss. Nevertheless, various treatment approaches have proven themselves in practice. If the doctor suspects inflammation as the trigger, he can prescribe a cortisone preparation for you - it is available as a tablet, infusion and as an injection into the ear. Cortisone has an anti-inflammatory effect and is said to help fight any swelling in the inner ear. If the cortisone does not work, you can try oxygen therapy: The patient sits in a special pressure chamber and breathes in pure oxygen. This is supposed to improve hearing. Treatment with anesthetics, which should have a positive effect on the auditory sensory cells, is also possible.

Important: Every treatment method carries a certain risk of side effects, so you should weigh up with your ENT doctor whether and which acute hearing loss therapy is the right one for your case. If you suffer from a chronic illness such as diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure, this must be treated appropriately - then there is a chance that your hearing will also improve.

Not sure if you have high blood pressure or diabetes?

Since stress seems to play an important role in the development of a sudden hearing loss, it is important to take a rest and recover. Your doctor will probably put you on sick leave anyway: "Just take a quick look at the emails" or "Prepare the presentation for next Wednesday" is then taboo for you. Also, you shouldn't smoke during your recovery.

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Preventing sudden hearing loss: what you can do

Anyone who has ever had a sudden hearing loss has a risk of around 30% for a relapse. If you want to avoid (renewed) sudden hearing loss, you should shift down a gear professionally and privately. Try to escape the hamster wheel at work by delegating tasks and giving yourself enough time to relax. Various techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and autogenic training, can help you with this. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should have your values ​​checked regularly and conscientiously take the prescribed medication to reduce the risk of sudden hearing loss.

If you get a severe infection, such as the flu or an otitis media, you should definitely see a doctor and cure yourself completely before you return to work. This will reduce the risk of damaging your ear. Last but not least, you should rethink your smoking habits: If you quit smoking, you lower the risk of many health problems - from lung cancer to impotence to sudden hearing loss. Think you need your cigarette breaks to escape the stress in the office? We will not accept this excuse!

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Natalie Decker

Natalie has been an editor for 15 years. In addition to lifestyle topics such as cooking and traveling, her focus is on medicine and health. She writes for the online and the Ratgeber-Verlag Graefe und Unzer, among others.

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