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Sudden Hearing Loss

What is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Sudden hearing loss – also known as sudden deafness – is a rapid onset over 72 hours or less of a subjective patient report of hearing impairment in one or both ears. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (S.S.H.L) is a subset of sudden hearing loss, and it is essential that the distinction be made between the two.

A comprehensive audiologic evaluation and physical examination will be needed to determine whether you’re suffering from sudden hearing loss, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

Whereas sudden sensorineural hearing loss indicates an abnormality of the cochlea, auditory nerve or higher aspects of the central auditory perception and processing, sudden hearing loss includes both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.

There are various causes of conductive hearing loss that need to be ruled out as well as a verification of sensorineural loss before a patient is considered to have the diagnosis of a SSHL and is to pursue treatment for a sudden sensorineural hearing loss.


An evaluation that patients can perform on themselves is to chew on ice or hard candy. If a patient has normal hearing, chewing on ice or hard candy will be heard in the opposite ear if a patient has a sudden sensorineural hearing loss. If the patient has a conductive hearing loss (not a nerve loss) the sound will be heard in the ear with the hearing loss.

It is essential the difference between a sudden hearing loss and a sudden sensorineural hearing loss be established before a patient pursues therapy for a sudden sensorineural hearing loss. A sudden hearing loss is not a matter that needs urgent attention.

Curious about the sudden hearing loss experience? Visit our YouTube channel and learn about one patient’s journey from sudden hearing loss to the full restoration of his hearing.

If you’d like to schedule a comprehensive evaluation by our team of board-certified otologist and audiologists, contact the Arizona Ear Center by phone at 602.307.9919, or by email at