Natural history of sudden sensorineural hearing loss

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 1977 Jul-Aug;86(4 Pt 1):463-80. doi: 10.1177/000348947708600406.


This is a prospective in-depth study of patients with sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss. We found that 65% recover completely to functional hearing levels spontaneously and independent of any type of medical treatment. The majority do so within 14 days and many within the first few days. Prognosis can be predicted according to the slope of the initial audiogram (low-frequency losses do better than high-frequency losses), hearing at 8 kHz, erythrocyte sedimentation rates, in some select instances spatial disorientation symptoms, and speech discrimination scores. There was a very poor correlation between hearing and vestibular test abnormalities, except hypoactive calories. There were no correlations with age (excepting the very elderly), with antecedent respiratory infections, hypertension, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. We conclude that there is a fundamental difference in the behavior of apical and basal cochlea losses, that hearing recovery is always better at low than at high frequencies, that because of the high spontaneous recovery rates, tympanotomies seeking peri-lymph fistulas should be delayed ten days unless there is a progressive hearing loss, and that none of the current recommended treatments, especially histamine, have any effect on the outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Audiometry
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Blood Sedimentation
  • Child
  • Cochlea
  • Deafness* / diagnosis
  • Deafness* / etiology
  • Deafness* / therapy
  • Ear Diseases / microbiology
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / complications
  • Humans
  • Labyrinth Diseases / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Perception
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Diseases / complications
  • Virus Diseases / complications