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Sensorineural Hearing Loss for GPs

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Diagnosis

Discover how GPs and Audiologists collaborate on the diagnosis, treatment and management of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL).

In the realm of healthcare, being prepared for the unexpected is a cornerstone of effective patient care.

This rings especially true when encountering Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL), a phenomenon that demands swift identification and precise management to maximise the potential for recovery.

As trusted frontline healthcare providers, your knowledge and timely intervention play a pivotal role in ensuring the best outcomes for your patients.

Demystifying Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Imagine a scenario where an otherwise healthy patient wakes up to find that their hearing in one (or both) ear/s has plummeted suddenly and inexplicably.

This is the hallmark of SSNHL, a condition characterised by a rapid drop in auditory function occurring within hours to three days. This enigmatic occurrence can disrupt lives and requires prompt medical attention.

The Race Against Time: A Key Role for GPs

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss is a medical emergency, much like a sudden loss of vision.

Immediate care is essential as the chance of recovery significantly increases when the condition is identified and addressed early.

General Practitioners are often the first point of contact for patients experiencing such changes in their hearing.

Collaborative efforts between GPs and Audiologists are vital in diagnosing and initiating the appropriate treatment for SSNHL.

High Doses of Steroids and Beyond: Management Strategies

One of the primary therapeutic strategies for SSNHL involves administering high doses of steroids.

Swift initiation of steroid treatment, ideally soon after the onset of hearing loss, offers the best chances of improvement.

Encouraging patients to avoid excessive noise exposure also contributes to positive outcomes.

However, the road to recovery can vary. Approximately one-third of patients recover completely, one-third partially, and one-third continue to experience hearing loss, regardless of the treatments given.

The Complexity of SSNHL

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss presents a complex landscape with diverse manifestations.

Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, accompanies 70% of SSNHL cases, while vertigo affects 20 to 60% of patients.

Although SSNHL occurs across all age groups and genders, most patients are between 50 to 60 years old.

The yearly incidence is estimated at 5 to 20 cases per 100,000 individuals, with a significant number of cases going unreported.

Collaboration for a Comprehensive Approach

When SSNHL is suspected, collaboration between GPs and Audiologists is essential.

While some patients may experience spontaneous recovery or respond to medical treatment, others are left with hearing loss and associated challenges.

Audiological rehabilitation becomes crucial in the management process.

For those with incomplete hearing recovery, the possibility of hearing aids and hearing-assistive technology should be explored.

These interventions address communication needs, psycho-social function, and even employment concerns.

The Power of Timely Intervention

As General Practitioners, your role in the journey of those affected by SSNHL is crucial.

Recognising the urgency of this condition and facilitating collaborative care can significantly impact patient outcomes.

Together, we can navigate the complexities of SSNHL, offer patients hope, and strive for improved hearing health.

For more information or to refer patients, please contact our team of dedicated Audiologists. Together, let’s work towards enhancing the quality of life of patients with SSNHL.


REFERENCES: 1 Berrocal JRG et al. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2002; 111:989-95  |  2 Causes of Hearing Loss: https://canadianaudiology.ca/for-the-public/causes-of-hearing-loss/  |  3 Montano J et al. ASHA Leader. 2008; 13:14-17  |  4 Wynne MK et al. ASHA Leader. 2001; 6:6-8  |  5 Sudden Deafness. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 2003; www.nidcd. nih.gov/health/sudden-deafness  |  6 Mattox DE et al. Am J Otol. 1989; 10:242-47  |  7 Segiura S et al. J. Med. Virol. 2003; 69(1):72-75  8 Byl FM. Laryngoscope. 1984; 94:647-61  |  9 Hughes GB et al. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 1996; 29(3):393-405  |  10 Rambold H et al. Neurology. 2005; 64:148-51  |  11 Carlsson PI et al. Int. J. Audiol. 2011; 50:139-44  |  12 The Diagnostic and Treatment Dilemma of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. 2003; www.hearingreview.com/2003/12/the-diagnostic-and-treatment-dilemma-of-sudden-sensorineural-hearing-loss/

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