Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor Anderson SC
Ear, Nose and Throat
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Finding the Right Doctor for Sudden Hearing Loss and Other Ear Problems
© August 2004 (revised October 2008) by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Question: I woke up this morning completely deaf in one ear. I went to my primary care physician and he gave me some drops for my ear and told me to come back in two weeks if my hearing doesn't come back. This doesn't sound like he is treating my hearing loss as a medical emergency. What should I do?—S. D.
Answer: A lot of people ask the same questions: "What kind of a doctor should I go to when I experience sudden hearing loss?" and, "What is the most effective treatment?"
If you make the wrong choice and don't get effective treatment immediately when you should, you may condemn yourself to a life of permanent hearing loss. Thus you need to take action to get the treatment you need, when you need it.
"Cry Wolf" or Die—Take Your Pick
Far too many people relate to me how they went to their family doctors and because their doctors did not recognize the emergency nature of their hearing losses, their doctors did not give them the immediate, effective treatment they really needed. Instead, their doctors often took a "wait and see" attitude. As a result, these patients ended up with permanent hearing loss. Don't let this happen to you.
Sudden hearing loss can result from many different conditions. Some are medical emergencies and others are not—just like having a heart attack is a medical emergency and heartburn is not. The trick sometimes is telling which is which since heartburn can be one of the symptoms of a heart attack.
You may feel foolish calling an ambulance and being rushed to the hospital only to discover it was heartburn and not a heart attack. However, doctors and paramedics would rather you call them first—and find out later it wasn't a medical emergency—instead of waiting to be sure, and die in the process.
The same holds true with your ears. Sudden hearing loss could be caused by something as simple as putting your hearing aid on and thereby pushing some wax further down your ear canal so it blocks sounds from reaching your eardrum. Voila! Instant deafness. This is not a medical emergency.
In contrast, you may wake up one morning with no hearing in one ear. Chances are this is a medical emergency and you should seek effective treatment now!
In a recent email to me, one lady wrote: "Doctors do not know how to treat sudden hearing loss. I wrote my primary care physician a letter about this and sent him your article with it entitled: Sudden Hearing Loss Is A Medical Emergency . When I went to see him, he was afraid to call it an emergency and get me an appointment with an ear specialist, as someone might think he was 'crying wolf' and thus wouldn't believe him in the future if it was not a 'real' emergency."
This is a valid and very real concern of doctors—especially primary care physicians w...