This retrospective study tests the hypothesis that patients who have recovered from idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) show deficits in word recognition tasks that cannot be entirely explained by a loss in audibility.
We reviewed the audiologic profile of 166 patients presenting with a unilateral SSNHL. Hearing loss severity, degree of threshold recovery, residual hearing loss, and word recognition performance were considered as outcome variables. Age, route of treatment, delay between SSNHL onset and treatment, and audiogram configuration were considered as predictor variables.
Severity, residual hearing loss, and recovery were highly variable across patients. While age and onset-treatment delay could not account for the severity, residual hearing loss and recovery in thresholds, configuration of the SSNHL and overall inner ear status as measured by thresholds on the contralateral ear were predictive of threshold recovery. Speech recognition performance was significantly poorer than predicted by the speech intelligibility curve derived from the patient’s audiogram.
SSNHL is associated with (1) changes in thresholds that are consistent with ischemia and (2) speech intelligibility deficits that cannot be entirely explained by a change in hearing sensitivity.