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    What is sudden deafness and why should we be careful with colds?

    BBC anchor Lewis Vaughan Jones was not alarmed when a few months ago he stopped hearing on his left side following a cold.
    He thought it was part of the “bottleneck” of his cold, which would be temporary and would disappear just as he had arrived, past his general malaise.
    He consulted with two doctors, who neither alarmed him nor investigated him further and went home.
    But this 36-year-old Briton, who had never had any problem hearing, was “shocked” when he returned to the hospital shortly after and was told that his almost total hearing loss was permanent and unrecoverable.
    As Jones explained to the BBC itself, doctors told him that not only did his eardrum stop working because of the infection, but also his auditory nerve , which connects the ear to the brain, “had given up”.
    What the presenter suffered was a sudden deafness , whose technical name is sudden neurosensory hearing loss.
    This deafness of more than 30 decibels appears in less than 72 hours and occurs in patients who have no previous history with hearing, usually over 40 years.
    A hearing loss of 30 decibels would, for example, make a normal conversation heard like a whisper, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the United States (NIDCD, for its acronym in English) .
    It usually affects only one ear and people who suffer from it may feel dizzy or dizzy, or hear a permanent noise or whistling in the ear, known as tinnitus .
    In addition to the loss of hearing, Jones began to hear a permanent and high-pitched noise that he describes as very unpleasant.
    Unknown causes
    In fact, in the vast majority of cases of sudden deafness, the cause of the problem can not be identified: the origin is only established in 10-15% of patients, according to the NIDCD data.
    On the other hand, there are many causes that can explain it:
    • infections
    • an injury or trauma to the head
    • autoimmune diseases
    • ototoxic drugs, which damage the sensory cells of the inner ear
    • a benign or malignant tumor that affects the nerve that connects the ear to the brain
    • neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis
    • Other disorders of the inner ear, such as Meniere’s disease
    • vascular problems or blood circulation
    • of unknown cause
    To confirm the diagnosis of sudden deafness, the first thing doctors do is perform a tonal audiometry , with which it is possible to confirm whether the hearing loss is of the sensorineural type or not: that is, if the sound does not reach the inner ear, , for example, to an obstruction in the ear, or if it does arrive but the ear can not process the sound that came due to a problem with the auditory nerve , which is something more serious.
    Doctors can perform other additional tests to try to establish the cause, although they rarely do so.
    What specialists recommend doing in case of sudden deafness, is to start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis, even if the causes are unknown.
    This usually includes the administration of systemic corticosteroids orally and sometimes intratympanic corticosteroids , through injections, to reduce inflammation in the ear.
    According to the American NIDCD institute, approximately half of the patients with sudden deafness recover partially or totally the ear spontaneously a week or two of having lost it. Some, in fact, never get to seek medical help.
    But for some patients, like Jones, that hearing loss becomes permanent and they need to start using prostheses or implants.
    Among the factors that do not favor the recovery of sudden deafness is age, with younger and older patients being the most vulnerable to hearing loss, the delay in starting treatment, and the severity of hearing loss.
    How to know when to ask for help for a cold?
    This inflammation temporarily compresses the nerve, causing hearing loss. But if that loss is not treated, it can become permanent.
    When the nerves are compressed it is as if they were drowning, they are literally dying, and if the problem persists it can become irreversible, which is what happened to Jones.
    The difference between a sudden sensorineural deafness and a habitual hearing loss associated with a flu or a cold is that the first appears suddenly and seriously affects the ear, it is worse than just feeling a certain blockage or noticing the sounds as muffled.
    Also, if the hearing loss persists after two days you should consult a doctor. Sudden deafness is a medical emergency .
    A few weeks ago, Jones once again presented the news on the BBC’s international channel for the first time since his diagnosis.
    He achieved this thanks to a prosthesis in his ear, which he is still trying to get used to, because it extends both the sounds and his own voice that causes him some distortion and a sensory over-stimulation.
    “They say the brain learns to adapt,” he said, assuming it would take him 6 to 8 weeks to get used to his new life.
    In the case of a cold or flu, the same infection that gives you other symptoms can affect the ear, causing inflammation around the nerve that transmits auditory signals to the brain.
    Some people never recover their hearing that they lost
    Jones told that that night after the diagnosis, when he lay down in bed and felt the beep with all his strength he thought that life would be unbearable like that and he feared that he could not return to work as a TV presenter.
    There was nothing to do.

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