Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is characterized by abrupt deafness in one or both ears, whether all at once or through the course of a few hours or days. Specifically, it indicates an individual has lost a certain amount of frequencies—30-plus decibels (dB)—in the ear. In some cases, the damage is permanent. In other cases, receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) could reverse or prevent such damage. New research shows how adding HBOT to treatment produces optimal outcomes.
The new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery concludes that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a beneficial treatment for those suffering SSNHL.
The September 2018 JAMA report, titled "Addition of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy vs Medical Therapy Alone for Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss," set out to examine the utilization of HBOT when treating SSNHL, as opposed to solely medical therapy (MT). In total, three randomized clinical trials and 16 non-randomized studies were conducted, with nearly 2,500 participants—all of whom have SSNHL.
"The cited JAMA analysis demonstrates the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, showing it especially advantageous for patients with serious SSNHL."
“Results of this meta-analysis including 2401 patients with SSNHL significantly favored HBOT plus standard medical therapy (MT) over MT alone for complete hearing recovery and any hearing recovery, as well as for absolute hearing gain," states the cited report's key findings. "The benefit of HBOT was greater in groups with severe hearing loss at baseline, HBOT as a salvage treatment, and a total HBOT duration of at least 1200 minutes.”
The results of this study were featured in a September 2018 CBS News article shared by network affiliate WCAX3 and outlined how someone with SSNHL may experience dizziness, poor balance and nausea. A 47-year-old female patient featured in the news article who had sudden hearing loss believed she had a brain tumor when she woke up one day with the aforementioned symptoms. Through her experience with HBOT, the woman is gaining her hearing back and looks forward to complete restoration of her hearing.
Researchers concluded HBOT is an optimal treatment for patients who have SSNHL.
HBOT typically entails a series of 60- to 90-minute sessions whereby a patient sits or lies inside a hyperbaric chamber under the supervision of a trained technician, physician or physician’s assistant. The infusion of pure oxygen facilitates blood plasma transport to areas of the inner ear apparatus, which may promote nerve and tissue repair.
Approved by the international nonprofit Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society as a viable treatment for SSNHL, HBOT has also been deemed beneficial to patients with other ailments and conditions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This includes, but is not limited to, radiation tissue damage, failed skin grafts and flaps, crush injury, thermal burns and lower diabetic extremity wounds.