Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ISSHL)

Hearing loss is typically a slow and gradual process that unfolds over months or even years. However, there exists a different kind of hearing loss that occurs suddenly, within a mere three days or less. This abrupt and unexpected loss of hearing is referred to as sudden hearing loss. Unlike the gradual onset of conventional hearing loss, sudden hearing loss manifests rapidly, and it can affect one ear or, in rare instances, both. The root cause of this sudden hearing decline can often be traced to issues within the inner ear or the auditory nerve, a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.

Surprisingly, sudden sensorineural hearing loss is not as rare as one might think. It impacts a notable percentage of the population, with an estimated five to 27 individuals per 100,000 experiencing this phenomenon annually. To put it in perspective, that equates to approximately 66,000 new cases every year in the United States alone. Strikingly, a significant proportion of individuals experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss, ranging from 30 to 60 percent, also report dizziness alongside the sudden hearing loss. However, what remains perplexing is that in about 90 percent of these cases, there is no identifiable clear cause for the sudden hearing loss, leading to the term “idiopathic.”

Why is HBOT effective for ISSHL?

The utilization of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of sudden hearing loss is grounded in an understanding of the intricate workings of the inner ear, specifically focusing on the cochlea. The cochlea, a fundamental auditory organ, necessitates a substantial oxygen supply to maintain its optimal functionality. However, the cochlea does not possess a robust direct blood supply to fulfill this oxygen demand.

The cochlea relies on a specialized liquid known as the perilymph to obtain the requisite oxygen. The perilymph serves as the primary medium for transporting oxygen to essential cochlear structures. In patients with ISSHL, the perilymph oxygen tension is decreased significantly.

To effectively address this oxygen deficit within the perilymph, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is employed. This therapeutic approach significantly boosts oxygen levels in the bloodstream, leading to an enhanced delivery of oxygen to the perilymph.

Numerous studies have confirmed that initiating hyperbaric oxygen therapy promptly after the onset of sudden hearing loss (ISSHL) leads to more favorable outcomes. If you suspect you may be experiencing ISSHL, it is crucial to promptly reach out to your healthcare provider. Early intervention can significantly impact and potentially preserve your hearing.