Sudden Hearing Loss Restored by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
By Lance Frazier
Oct 19, 2017
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
In his work at the Intermountain Budge Clinic in Logan, and at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, Dr. Odell relies on his hearing to conduct examinations with a stethoscope in his patients. So it was more than a minor annoyance to realize he was deaf in his right ear.
“I thought it was an ear infection, so I took antibiotics,” says Dr. Odell. At the time, he says, “I didn’t have a clue” that the condition might be more serious.
When the antibiotics didn’t help, Dr. Odell went to Jeffrey Keyser, MD, an ENT at the Budge Clinic. Dr. Keyser diagnosed him with idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL), also known as sudden deafness. The standard treatment for ISSHL is a course of oral corticosteroids, which Dr. Odell began immediately. But he also went home and, like many patients, looked up his condition on Google. He found that another treatment had recently been approved for ISSHL — hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, and is commonly used for treating decompression sickness, and other conditions such as serious infections, radiation injuries, and wounds that resist healing.
“This is only recently being used for that (sudden deafness) application,” says Dr Odell. ISSHL affects fewer than 20 people per 100,000 each year.
Fortunately, Logan Regional Hospital has three hyperbaric chambers, and Dr. Odell began treatment right away. After his second or third round, he says, he noticed improvement, and by the end of his ten-round course, his hearing was near-normal. Ultimately, his hearing was impaired for only about one week, and he considers himself fortunate to have found optimal treatment.
“I was lucky to catch it early,” he says, noting that ISSHL sometimes goes away without treatment, but other times leaves permanent hearing loss. “Research has shown that your odds of recovery are better with steroids, and your odds of recovery are even better when you add hyperbaric treatments.