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Clinical Challenges
September 2000

Effectiveness of Treatment for Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Author Affiliations

KAREN H.CALHOUNMDRONALD B.KUPPERSMITHMDFrom the Division of Otology/Neurotology, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000;126(9):1161-1164. doi:10.1001/archotol.126.9.1161

Sudden-onset unilateral sensorineural hearing loss has no effective treatment.

The phenomenon of sudden-onset, unilateral sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) has been recognized and well described for some time. Whether it represents a single pathophysiologic entity or is the common end point of numerous, varied pathologic processes remains unknown. Many different causes of SSNHL have been hypothesized: viral infection of the labyrinth or cochlear nerve; vascular insult; perilymphatic hypoxia; intralabyrinthine membrane rupture; inflammatory and metabolic causes; and others. However, none has been shown to cause all, or even most, cases of SSNHL. There is not even universal acceptance of a standard definition of SSNHL. Although many authors define SSNHL as loss of at least 30 decibels (dB) in 3 contiguous frequencies over a period of 3 days or less, some investigators use more or less stringent criteria. This article reviews the most significant published data on treatment of SSNHL and attempts to synthesize them and draw reasonable conclusions on optimal treatment of this difficult problem.