Acute idiopathic hearing loss is a sudden disturbance of ones sound sensation which usually occurs one-sided and without a discernible cause (idiopathic). The degree of hearing loss can range anywhere from a minor loss to complete deafness. It can affect all frequencies or be limited to only a few. Acute idiopathic hearing loss which is defined as hearing loss with no discernable cause must be differentiated from hearing disturbances with a clearly identifiable cause. The course of acute idiopathic hearing loss is very varied. But a relatively high rate of spontaneous recovery has been reported. This spontaneous recovery is an expression of the high individual ability for nerve cell regeneration (= auditory and balance cells). High dosage Low-Level-Laser therapy according to Dr. Wilden® as well as MLS home therapy strengthen and stimulate the ability of the overstrained cells of the inner ear to regenerate and, thus, heal.


Characteristic and defining is a sudden, usually one-sided onset of hearing loss. In most cases no triggering or causative factors can be found. A one-sided sensation of pressure and a ringing in the ears (tinnitus, in most cases of high frequency) may be the first signs of imminent hearing loss.

In addition to the hearing loss other symptoms may occur simultaneously:

  • Tinnitus – 80 %
  • Sensation of pressure in the ear
  • Hypersensitivity for noise (hyperacusis)
  • Distortion of hearing (dysacusis)
  • Hearing of double sounds – a sound is normal in
    one but higher in the other (affected) ear
  • Stinging pain in or around the ear
  • Skin feels “numb” or “like cotton wool” (partially because there is no acoustic feedback when the outer ear is touched)
  • Vertigo – 30 %

Hearing loss – causes and risk factors

The main cause of acute hearing loss is – as for all other symptoms resulting from too much strain on the inner ear – the common noise of modern civilization which the human hearing organ is constantly exposed to. In orthodox medicine acute hearing loss is also mentioned in context with the following illnesses:

  • Viral infections such as mumps, herpes or HIV. Contradictory research results have been published concerning the link between viral infections and acute idiopathic hearing loss. Based solely on the published data such a link seems rather unlikely.
  • Circulatory or vascular disorders such as embolisms, coagulation disorders, strokes, hyperviscosity or vascular changes in the inner ear. These can occur in case of common arteriosclerosis, diabetes (which especially changes small vessels), rare inflammations of vascular walls due to an autoimmune disease etc. A vascular disorder can lead to a sudden vascular obstruction followed by the formation of blood clots which in course may cause a disruption of the normal blood flow to and in the inner ear.
  • Stress. In this case an overproduction of catecholamines (adrenaline) can cause vascular cramps which may lead to a reduction of the blood circulation in the inner ear or even stop it completely. Depending on the duration and extent of these cramps the symptoms of hearing loss may persist and tissue damage may remain. Apart from this mechanism, stress can also contribute to or cause an acute idiopathic loss of hearing without changes in adrenaline production or levels. In this case the damaging mechanism is as yet unknown.
  • Hemorrhages and injuries
  • Too high or too low blood pressure (hyper- or hypotension)
  • Tumors of the auditory nerve/8th cranial nerve (usually acoustic neurinomas) and surrounding structures such as the cerebellopontine angle
  • Defective position of the cervical spinal column leading to vertebragenic, basilary spinal ischemia which in turn may cause a reduction of the circulation to the inner ear
  • Damage caused by drugs/medications
  • Autoimmune reactions against parts of the inner ear. Autoimmune reactions which may occur after an infection during childhood or pregnancy, for example, are “overreactions” of the immune system against substances and tissues normally present in the body. Different proteins of the inner ear may be mistaken for foreign substances and, thus, attacked by the immune system.

Many factors potentially causing acute idiopathic hearing loss have only been described in isolated case reports or case series. To date there are no published studies involving a sufficient number of patients, nor has a systematic, prospective review of risk factors been carried out. There is, thus, no conclusive evidence clearly pointing towards one or the other suspected mechanism causing acute idiopathic hearing loss. Due to the presence of a variety of potential causes for acute idiopathic hearing loss the question arises whether acute idiopathic hearing loss is a syndrome in itself or rather a common symptom of different illnesses.

Risk factors

According to some experts especially two groups of people are at risk:

  • People who have risk factors for strokes or heart attacks, e.g. overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes or a disorder of the fat metabolism (hypercholesterolemia) and smokers
  • People who are exposed to a lot of stress

However, there is no scientific proof of these theories. In his reference book “Der Hörsturz” the ENT-expert and scientist Olaf Michel writes the following about the often postulated link between stress and acute idiopathic hearing loss: Due to a lack of other possible explanations – acute idiopathic hearing loss usually strikes otherwise healthy people – the affected person may construct an inaccurate causal link between always present episodes of stress and the acute idiopathic hearing loss.