Sudden hearing loss is common and early treatment could save hearing, doctors say

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Hearing specialist doctor Mark Widick said sudden hearing loss affects thousands of people every year and it is often misdiagnosed. (KABC)

Sudden hearing loss is more common than most people think and the earlier it is treated, the better the chances are of saving your hearing, doctors say.

David Alboukrek loves the sound of nature, but one day he woke up unable to hear out of his left ear.

He described "muffling sounds" and "ringing" in his ears.

At first, he said he wasn't sure what was going on.

"You may think you have a cold or it's something that will go away," Albourkrek said.

He went to see hearing specialist Dr. Mark Widick when his hearing did not return. Widick said sudden hearing loss affects thousands of people every year and it is often misdiagnosed.

"They will diagnose an infection when the hearing loss is not due to infection," he said. Widick says if it's not treated quickly, patients could experience a permanent hearing loss. He advises patients to get an audiogram.

"It's a test of the hearing that is very specific," Widick said.

He says in most cases, the blood vessel that feeds the entire hearing system is damaged.

"Once that happens, it's like a stroke to the ear," he said.

Widick's team is now part of an FDA-approved trial testing a new drug called AM-111 meant to stop the damage and save hearing, but time is of the essence.

"The duration from onset of symptoms is less than 72 hours," Widick said.

Alboukrek did not get the study medication, but was treated with steroids to stop the inflammation. His lesson for others is to not wait before getting help.

"Because it was treated very early on, I was not left with any permanent hearing loss," he said. This allowed him to enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature once again.

For more information about the study go to http://suddendeafness-study.com/study-centres.

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