Dr. April Ward

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Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is frequently misdiagnosed by both the people who experience it and their primary care providers, which can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is defined as hearing loss that occurs suddenly or over a 72-hour period. Symptoms of SSNHL are very similar to symptoms of a wax blockage or congestion, such as a plugged feeling in the ear, loud ringing in the ear and decreased hearing. Most often, only one ear is affected. The plugged feeling is very similar to what you may experience when you have a bad cold or when you have just landed in an airplane, and it is often assumed that the issue will resolve on its own. Physicians also often mistakenly prescribe nasal sprays and decongestants to treat the perceived congestion, which will not have any positive impact on SSNHL. Loud ringing in the ear (known as tinnitus) can also often mask a hearing loss.

Dr. April Ward, Au.D., is an audiologist and the director of Idaho Elks Hearing and Balance Center.

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