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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Treating Sudden Hearing Loss

May 26, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — A new study reveals a newer injection therapy be just as effective as standard oral drugs for treating sudden hearing loss in most patients.

Sudden hearing loss is a dramatic loss of hearing that occurs over a short period of time, usually less than 72 hours. Doctors often can’t figure out the cause of the problem. About one-third of patients regain some of their hearing on their own, but others suffer permanent loss if they are not treated.

The standard treatment for sudden hearing loss is a course of oral steroids. Some doctors have recently started to give their patients a series of steroid injections delivered through the eardrum and into the middle ear. The ideas is these injections could deliver a heavier dose of steroids directly to the source of the problem.

Researchers studied the two different therapies at 16 academic medical centers across the country. They randomly assigned 250 patients to receive either a two-week course of oral steroids or four steroid injections over a two-week time period. Prior to treatment, the patients each had a 50-decibel or greater hearing loss in one of their ears.

Two months later, results showed those treated with oral steroids had an average 30.7-decibel improvement in the affected ear. Those treated with the injections had an average 28.7-decibel improvement.

Researchers say the treatments were comparable for most patients except for those with very severe hearing loss (greater than 90 decibels). These patients tended to have better results with oral steroids.

Researchers say both treatments have their pros and cons. Side effects of oral steroids can include insomnia, weight gain and an increase in blood sugar. However, they are lower in cost and can be taken at home. Steroid injections can be expensive and painful, but patients may be able to avoid the side effects of the oral drugs.

“This study suggests that for most SHL (sudden hearing loss) patients, oral and injected steroids appear to be equally effective,” John Carey, M.D., a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was quoted as saying. “This could lead to better options for patients that match their personal preferences.”

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, May 2011