Sudden Hearing Loss

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Welcome to the symptom guide on sudden hearing loss. We're sorry that you're having this problem!

This symptom guide is designed for persons who have noticed a recent onset of hearing loss and would like to find out more about this symptom. This guide is about sudden, not gradual, hearing loss. Many causes of longstanding or gradual loss will not be covered here, such as hearing loss associated with aging (also called presbycusis) or rare genetic diseases.

Please keep in mind that this guide cannot replace a face-to-face evaluation with your own health care provider. It is meant to provide helpful information while you are awaiting further evaluation, or to supplement what you may have already learned after evaluation with your doctor.

In this guide, you'll be asked a series of questions that will guide you through some of the most common causes that may explain your symptoms. This guide will cover the most common reasons for sudden hearing loss; however, it won't cover every cause.

So, if none of the conditions covered in this guide seem to apply to you, keep in mind that sometimes no cause can be found. Or, you may have a rare cause of hearing loss that's not covered here.

Okay, let's get started.

The first questions are aimed at the possibility of a serious or dangerous cause of sudden hearing loss.

Were you ever diagnosed with meningitis in the past? Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the lining of the brain and may cause hearing loss as a complication.

Yes, I've had meningitis.

No, I've never had meningitis.




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