Hyperbaric oxygen chamber is the standard treatment technique for countering gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, non-healing wounds, and many more health conditions. However, in a recent meta-analysis and systematic review of the procedure, it has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy, along with standard medical therapy, is well suited to treat patients suffering from sensorineural hearing loss. This can lead to a significant improvement, rather than countering the ailment with only standard treatment.
What is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL), or sudden deafness as it is commonly known, is a condition where an individual experiences rapid loss of hearing for unexplained reasons either over a few days or all at once. SSNHL takes place due to some issues in the sensory organs of the inner ear and mostly affects only one ear.
While most people suffering from SSNHL discover the sudden hearing loss when they wake up in the morning, others can also discover it while trying to use the deaf ear for a phone call or to listen to music using earphones. Many patients have also reported hearing a loud “pop” in the affected ear, just before hearing loss.
What Does the Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis State?
The systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery was headed by MD Tae-Min Rhee of National Maritime Medical Center in South Korea. Rhee stated that the primary end-points of the meta-analysis found that 29.4 percent of the study participants in the HBOT/MT group achieved complete hearing, as opposed to just 20.7 percent of the study participants who were treated only with standard medical therapy.
“HBOT is basically a very safe and effective treatment with few side effects,” said Rhee to MedPage Today.
He further stated that the application of hyperbaric chamber for HBOT works for all kinds of patients and has minimal side-effects. Patients who suffer from pneumothorax and claustrophobia are the only ones who might face minor issues while undertaking this treatment.
Rhee and his fellow researchers assessed 2,401 patients, with a mean age of 45.4 years, suffering from SSNHL. UThey used information from 16 previous non-randomized studies and three randomized clinical trials. Out of the total number of study participants, 53.3 percent were female. The participants of these 19 studies received either medical therapy in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen therapy or just medical therapy alone.
Rhee and his team found that the participants of the MT/HBOT group were 61 percent more likely to get back their complete hearing abilities compared to the group which received only medical therapy. Moreover, the overall average amount of hearing recovery was also higher for the people who received both hyperbaric therapy and standard medical therapy.
The researchers also found that the application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy was very beneficial for patients who were receiving the therapy as a form of salvage treatment; patients with severe hearing loss from the beginning of the study. AAdditionally, those who underwent 1,200 minutes of HBOT sessions were also likely to benefit the most.
On the basis of the review, Rhee and his team of researchers concluded that the application of hyperbaric chamber along with standard medical therapy is the most effective method of treating individuals suffering from SSNHL. Rhee further added that HBOT therapy was a cost-effective treatment method and was worth a try, especially if standard medical treatment using steroids failed to restore hearing in the patient.
Application of Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber for SSNHL – the Earlier the Better
While Rhee thinks that the use of hyperbaric therapy for SSNHL can wait until the steroids have failed to treat the patient, Heather Murphy-Lavoie of Louisiana State University, School of Medicine, thinks that early intervention will give the best results.
Lavoie, who is also excited about the application of hyperbaric chamber for SSNHL, thinks that it is best to treat sudden hearing loss patients with early HBOT and MT rather than wait for steroids to do their work. Lavoie, who was not involved in the meta-analysis, feels that waiting till the time standard care has not responded would lessen the efficacy of HBOT and would render it less beneficial for SSNHL patients, lowering their chances of recovery.
She believes that early treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in conjunction with standard medical care. will bring about the best and the most effective outcomes for SSNHL patients. She further says that while the optimal number of HBOT sessions cannot be determined currently, anything less than 10 sessions would not be of much help in recovering complete hearing in the patients.
This review and meta-analysis have opened up new avenues of treatment for patients suffering from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. The application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is further supported by many healthcare professionals because it is a non-invasive and non-painful form of treatment that causes minimal to no physical discomfort for the patient.