To identify, evaluate, and review randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on the treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL).
A MEDLINE search and hand search were conducted to identify RCTs published between January 1966 and February 2006 in the English language on the treatment of SSHL. Search terms included hearing loss, sensorineural(MeSH term), sensorineural hearing loss(text words), and sudden deafness (text words).
Prospective RCTs on the treatment of patients diagnosed as having SSHL.
One independent observer extracted study data. Validity was evaluated using standard criteria. Characteristics and results were reviewed systematically.
A total of 21 RCTs were identified regarding various treatments, including systemic and intratympanic steroids; antiviral and hemodilution agents; mineral, vitamin, and herbal preparations; batroxobin; carbogen; and hyperbaric oxygen. All studies used audiometric outcome measures. Only 2 studies used identical criteria to define SSHL. The method of randomization was described in 2 studies. Validity scores ranged from 2 to 8 (of 9). Positive results were reported favoring systemic steroids, intratympanic steroids, batroxobin, magnesium, vitamin E, and hyperbaric oxygen, although there were serious limitations in each study with a positive finding. There was no difference in audiometric outcomes reported across all studies of antiviral and hemodilution agents and no difference in one study of systemic steroids vs placebo.
To our knowledge, no valid RCT exists to determine effective treatment of SSHL. Systemic steroids cannot be considered the gold standard of treatment of SSHL, given the severe limitations of the landmark study supporting their use.