May is Stroke Awareness Month. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that brings blood to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or ruptures; this blocks the brain from receiving the oxygen and nutrients it needs and as a result, the cells can die. The longer an individual suffering from a stroke goes without treatment, the higher the risk for long-term damage. Individuals may suffer from a number of physical changes following a stroke, including weakness/paralysis on one side of the body, spasticity, and fatigue. Cognitive changes include problems communicating, issues with speech, inability to control the muscles in the face, and memory challenges. In addition to these physical and cognitive challenges, stroke sufferers commonly experience hearing loss. Individuals can even have an ear stroke.
Hearing Loss After Stroke
Hearing loss is common after a stroke. This is because the auditory pathways can be affected at all levels, which can lead to “hearing reception and/or perception deficits.” Individuals with a history of stroke may be more likely to suffer from hearing loss during subsequent strokes. Strokes that affect the outer part of the brain stem are more likely to affect hearing and lead to sudden hearing loss.
There is another phenomenon, called “ear stroke,” that can impact hearing. An ear stroke is also referred to as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL). Like a stroke, it’s unpredictable. This experience can be frightening for individuals because it can come on suddenly or develop over a few days. Some individuals will wake up with hearing loss, and others will notice themselves gradually losing their hearing over about three days. SSNHL typically only occurs in one ear.
The definitive cause of ear stroke is unknown. It may have a number of causes, including vascular occlusion, viral or bacterial infections, tumors, autoimmune diseases, or ruptured inner ear membranes.
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from a stroke, you need to act fast. The acronym, FAST, stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech, and time to call 911. If you or someone near you is experiencing face drooping, arm weakness or numbness on one side, or slurred speech, it’s important to get to a hospital immediately. You will need to have a comprehensive neurological exam to understand the cause of the stroke and subsequent treatment. SSNHL can result in “spontaneous recovery” in about half of cases, but it can be a sign of impending stroke, so it’s important to get checked out.
Following an ear stroke, you will need to talk to your local hearing professionals to discuss hearing aid options. At Amdahl Hearing, our aim is to Amplify Life. Visit our hearing resources to learn more about how hearing aids can amplify your life.