Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Emergency

Andrew D. P. Prince, BA; Emily Z. Stucken, MD


J Am Board Fam Med. 2021;34(1):216-223.. 

In This Article


The family physician is often the initial provider to interface with patients who present with SSNHL. The family medicine provider plays a crucial role in the early recognition and initial management of SSNHL. A thorough history and physical examination are the cornerstones of evaluation to differentiate between sudden CHL and SNHL, and to assess for important neurologic diagnosis such as stroke. Prompt initiation of steroid therapy is recommended for patients with SSNHL, along with MRI imaging, audiology evaluation, and consultation with an otolaryngologist. We encourage the family physician to feel empowered to begin initial therapy with oral corticosteroids if their suspicion for SSNHL is high, even while awaiting formal audiometric confirmation or referral to a specialist.