Management of sudden sensorineural hearing loss

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Purpose of review

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is an otologic emergency and should be managed quickly and effectively. This review focuses on the management of sudden SNHL, primarily idiopathic sudden SNHL as it is the most common cause.

Recent findings

Management options include observation, oral steroids, intratympanic steroids, or combined oral/intratympanic steroids. One-third to two-thirds of patients will achieve spontaneous recovery, most likely within the first 2 weeks. Despite the lack of randomized controlled trials on steroid therapy efficacy, all patients should be offered steroid treatment given low risk and possible significant benefits. All patients should undergo MRI with gadolinium to rule out retrocochlear disorder. Bilateral sudden hearing loss should alert the clinician to possible systemic disease.


Sudden hearing loss is an otologic emergency. Appropriate counseling of patients is necessary to allow physician and patient to make a joint, educated decision. It is paramount to rule out retrocochlear disorder and to follow patients closely for improvement or need for future auditory rehabilitation.

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