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Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness

Sudden hearing loss

Sudden hearing loss can affect one or both ears.

It can happen instantly or over the course of a few weeks, and you might also have tinnitus or balance problems.

Recovery from sudden hearing loss will depend on the cause and how badly you’re affected.

What to do if you have sudden hearing loss

If you suddenly lose hearing in one or both ears, you should contact NHS 111 or your GP as soon as possible. Your hearing loss might not be serious, but it can be a symptom of a medical emergency. If this is the case, there is a very short window of time for treatment.

If you can’t see your GP or call NHS 111 for any reason, go to your nearest accident and emergency department.

At the hospital, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist will carry out tests to find out what degree and type of hearing loss you have.

You may need to stay in hospital for treatment, or you may be treated as an outpatient.

Causes of sudden hearing loss

Causes can include:

  • ear wax
  • infections
  • trauma
  • ototoxic drugs
  • acoustic neuromas
  • Ménière’s disease