Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In this Article

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat sudden hearing loss in people who have low oxygen levels in the inner ear. This condition is called idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe pressurized oxygen while you lie inside a clear plastic tube. The extra oxygen can help restore some hearing in your affected ear. Each treatment can take up to 2 hours. Side effects from the treatment are rare.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric [hahy-per-bar-ik] or high pressure oxygen therapy is a treatment for many kinds of illnesses and injuries, including sudden hearing loss. During this treatment, you breathe pure oxygen in a special chamber where the air pressure is two or three times higher than normal. This lets your lungs take in more oxygen than they normally can. The extra oxygen can help restore some hearing if you have idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL).

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually considered safe and side effects are rare. However, there are some risks associated with the high air pressure used. These risks include:

  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Collapsed lung
  • Temporary nearsightedness (not being able to clearly see things that are far away). This usually goes away in a few days or weeks after your last treatment.

Another risk with hyperbaric oxygen therapy is seizure [see-zher] caused by having too much oxygen in your body. This is not life-threatening.

Pregnant women should not have hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

What are the benefits?

If you lose the hearing in one ear over a few days, you may have idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Idiopathic [id-ee-uh-path-ik] means without a known cause. Usually, only one ear is affected. This is an emergency and you should see a doctor right away.

People with this condition have low levels of oxygen in their inner ears. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen in your body and can help restore your lost hearing if you start treatment soon.

How do I prepare?

You should not drink any alcohol within 8 hours of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Because oxygen can cause a fire if there is a spark, you should never bring a lighter or any device with a battery in it into the treatment area.

Do not use skin care products with petroleum jelly before treatment. Petroleum is also a fire hazard around oxygen.

How is it done or administered?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy usually is given at a special outpatient clinic. You will lie on a table inside a long clear plastic tube. The tube will be sealed and filled with pressurized oxygen. You might feel popping or fullness in your ears, similar to the way you feel taking off in an airplane. If this happens, it can help to swallow or yawn.

The clinic staff will be able to see and hear you during your treatment and you can talk to them. You should try to relax and breathe normally. You might be able to watch TV or listen to music. Your treatment will probably take about 90 minutes. Then the tube will be slowly depressurized. You might feel tired or lightheaded afterwards. This should go away soon.

When will I know the results?

You may need between 10 and 20 treatment sessions with hyperbaric oxygen to help restore your hearing. The number of treatments depends on how severe your condition is. Tell your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your treatment.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

You should try to keep all of your appointments for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Each treatment builds on the one before to help you get better.

Your doctor might also prescribe medicine for you, such as corticosteroids [kawr-tuh-koh-ster-oids].

After you complete your treatment, you should see your doctor for hearing tests and follow-up care. You might be advised to see an otolaryngologist [oh-toh-lar-ing-gol-uh-jist], a doctor who specializes in problems with the ears, nose, and throat.

What should I expect during recovery?

After a hyperbaric oxygen treatment, you should:

  • Get plenty of rest for the next 24 hours.
  • Drink lots of fluids; avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and colas.
  • Avoid taking hot showers or tub baths for 24 hours.
  • Not participate in any strenuous activities for 48 hours.
  • Not fly in any private or commercial aircraft for at least 24 hours.