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Waking up in the morning and realizing that your hearing is impaired can be quite a distressful situation, especially if both ears are involved.

The rule of thumb though is that if there are no other symptoms experienced with the reduced hearing and it actually improves throughout the day then the chances are that you're not experiencing anything severe but possibly rather an obstruction caused by ear wax that has blocked the auditory canal. 

A good way to determine if this is the case is to dry-wick the affected ear using some tissue paper that is rolled up thin enough to enter the ear but sturdy enough to allow it to enter the canal and see if this helps to remove some of the wax.

If this helps then one may consider using over-the-counter products or home remedy suggestions to help loosen up the wax for easier passage out of the canal. One good option to attempt is to slightly warm up some olive or mineral oil and instill a few drops in the ear at night before heading to bed and plugging just the entry of the ear with some cotton wool, being careful not to push it into the ear. The following morning you should notice that a lot of the wax has ended up on the cotton swab.

If wax removal at home isn't possible or is difficult then consulting with a healthcare professional to examine the ear and remove the impacted wax is advised.

Sudden deafness

Sudden deafness is an issue that should just be considered as a possibility when one experiences certain signs and symptoms, such as ringing in the ears, occurring together with the hearing loss.

The condition is defined as rapid, unexplained hearing loss affecting usually just one ear and it may occur at once or over a few days. There is also no improvement but rather just the progressive worsening of hearing. 

The most common causes of sudden hearing loss include:

  • Trauma such as injury to the head
  • Infectious diseases
  • Autoimmune conditions such as Cogan's syndrome
  • Blood circulation issues
  • Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis
  • Drugs that are toxic to the sensory cells in the inner ear such as the aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • A tumor or mass on the nerve that supplies signals from the ear to the brain
  • Inner ear conditions such as Meniere's disease
Sudden deafness, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), should be considered a medical emergency and immediate consultation with a healthcare professional is warranted to examine, investigate and further manage the affected individual.

Sudden deafness, where no cause for the issue can be determined, can be managed with the use of corticosteroid medications. These drugs help to reduce any inflammation and swelling that might be causing the decreased hearing.

Steroids are given orally but more recently ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists have preferred performing direct injecting of steroids behind the eardrum and into the middle ear where the medication travels to the inner ear. It is a less comfortable procedure for patients but is a good route of administration for those who cannot tolerate oral steroids. 

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