Pseudo-sudden deafness

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2012 Feb;121(2):96-9. doi: 10.1177/000348941212100204.


Objectives: We describe the symptom complex and management of a clinical entity we refer to as "pseudo-sudden deafness," which is an episode of acute otitis media that leads to sensorineural hearing loss with reduced speech discrimination.

Methods: We included 8 adult patients with audiometrically confirmed, asymmetric sensorineural hearing loss with decreased speech discrimination that presented after an episode of acute otitis media. Magnetic resonance imaging ruled out retrocochlear disease. Both physical examination and myringotomy helped confirm the diagnosis of serous otitis media (SOM). Myringotomy, tympanostomy tubes, oral antibiotics, and otic antibiotic-steroid drops were used to treat the SOM. Oral steroids were used to treat the sensorineural component.

Results: Pretreatment and posttreatment audiograms showed an improvement in speech discrimination score, pure tone thresholds, or both after treatment for underlying SOM and sensorineural hearing loss in 6 of the 8 patients.

Conclusions: Patients who present with an acute onset of unilateral sensorineural hearing loss with decreased speech discrimination may be mistakenly thought to have idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss when, in fact, they may have an SOM-induced phenomenon that is potentially reversible. The distinguishing feature is a preexisting otitis media, which must be treated first, before the administration of steroids.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / etiology*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle Ear Ventilation
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / complications*
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media with Effusion / therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Speech Discrimination Tests
  • Tinnitus / etiology
  • Vertigo / etiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Glucocorticoids