Everyone experiences some hearing loss with age. However, sudden hearing loss occurs when someone loses significant hearing very quickly. Loss of hearing can happen nearly instantaneously or over a few days. The condition also called sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) or sudden deafness, affects around 4,000 Americans yearly. Fortunately, there are treatment options, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
What is HBOT?
HBOT involves sitting in a pressurized chamber of pure oxygen. People’s bodies need oxygen to heal. Hyperbaric therapy provides high doses of oxygen to help people heal faster. Recent research has found that the treatment can be useful for sudden hearing loss.
Oxygen therapy for hearing loss
For some people, sudden hearing loss is caused by viruses and blood flow problems. In these cases, adding HBOT to a treatment plan can help speed up healing. Every 1 in 3 patients who experience sudden deafness regain hearing. For the other two-thirds of patients, steroids and hyperbaric oxygen can help.
What does the research say?
In a recent evaluation of the research, experts found that hyperbaric therapy, in addition to traditional drug therapy, was 61% more effective than drug therapy alone. Additionally, patients who got both treatments had a higher amount of hearing recovery than those who had only drug therapy. HBOT can be a good option for patients who have experienced significant hearing loss.
What to expect during treatment
HBOT allows patients to breathe up to three times more oxygen than usual. In the first session, patients will be asked to leave all electronics and metals outside the chamber. Some facilities have chambers that treat multiple patients simultaneously. In these settings, the therapy is administered through a mask. In other cases, patients go into a solo chamber and lie flat on a table. The patient then is transferred into a clear plastic tube for treatment.
How long does treatment take?
When the pressure first starts to increase, patients may feel slight discomfort or ear popping. Continue breathing normally. Healthcare providers administering the treatment will monitor the patient’s condition and vital signs throughout the whole appointment. Usually, sessions will last from 30 minutes to 2 hours. For most people, multiple sessions will provide the most benefits.
Research in HBOT continues to grow. The therapy has been shown to be beneficial for diabetic wounds, some brain conditions, and sudden hearing loss. Patients should consult with a healthcare provider to find out more about the benefits of hyperbaric treatment.