Hyperbaric Treatment Of Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Systematic Review

Sensorineural hearing loss is a hearing impairment that results from damage to the inner ear. The most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is age-related degeneration and damage to the cells in the cochlea, the part of the ear responsible for detecting sound vibrations and sending this information to the brain. However, other common causes include exposure to loud noises, ototoxic medications, certain diseases, infections, or trauma to the head or ears, leaving many searching for effective sensorineural hearing loss treatment.

Although many treatments have arisen over the years, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has emerged as a promising treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss. At NexGen Hyperbaric in Edwards, CO, our team of scholarly physicians is constantly monitoring new research to find increasingly advanced applications for HBOT. Here, we share our current findings on sensorineural hearing loss and HBOT studies. We explain what hyperbaric treatment is and how it works, as well as provide an overview of the evidence supporting its use for the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss.

What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)?

Sensorineural hearing loss is a group of hearing disorders caused by problems with the inner ear (cochlea) or the auditory nerve. Symptoms may include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments and difficulty hearing voices at low volumes. The term “sensorineural” indicates that hearing loss stems from dysfunction in the nerve cells that carry signals from the ear to the brain. These conditions affect the sense of hearing, rendering the individual unable to hear certain sounds or combinations of sounds.

The most common types of sensorineural hearing loss are age-related presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss. In patients with this condition, damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear reduces their ability to transduce sound waves into electrical signals. As this process continues over time, it becomes increasingly difficult for the affected individual to hear faint or quiet sounds.

As a complex condition, many doctors and researchers have struggled with the question of how to treat sensorineural hearing loss. Conventional treatments include hearing aids, cochlear implants, surgery, and medications, all of which have shown varying degrees of success. While many of these treatment options are viable options for patients with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss, many patients do not respond to these conventional approaches due to various reasons such as patient age, health history, financial constraints, or other personal factors.

These challenges have led researchers and clinicians to explore alternative treatment options that may better suit the individual patient’s needs. One such treatment option that has been gaining popularity in recent years is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Work To Treat SNHL?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that uses increased pressure to increase oxygen levels in the body. The treatment effectively treats carbon monoxide poisoning and acute diving injuries. Still, it has also demonstrated the potential to successfully treat several medical conditions, such as decompression sickness and other conditions affecting gas exchange.

In recent years, hyperbaric treatment has gained attention as a potential treatment for several neurological disorders, including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and fibromyalgia. Regarding its effects on the human body, HBOT increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which triggers the release of growth factors that help stimulate cellular repair and growth.

It also stimulates the production of red blood cells, which can help fight infection and improve the delivery of oxygen to tissues and organs throughout the body. The increased level of oxygen also decreases inflammation. This effect promotes the healing of damaged tissues, making it an effective treatment for wounds and burns and neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. However, some recent studies have explored the potential of utilizing a hyperbaric chamber for hearing loss.

Below, we discuss in depth a collaborative project published in 2022 by Heather Murphy-Lavoie of Louisiana State University Medical School and Mesut Mutluoglu of Sa?l?k Bilimleri Üniversitesi (University of Health Sciences) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Evidence To Support the Use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy For Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Although using hyperbaric oxygen therapy for sensorineural hearing loss is a relatively new technique, research suggests that the treatment may offer significant benefits for patients with this condition. In their study, Murphy-Lavoie and Mutluoglu determined what factors consistently co-occur with improvement in hearing in patients undergoing hyperbaric treatment. In addition, the researchers examined data from multiple other studies to establish valuable indications and contra-indications for the efficacy of this treatment in particular individuals.

During their study, the researchers contended with the issue of sudden hearing loss recovery, a factor that impacts nearly every survey on the topic. When this phenomenon occurs, patients experience a sudden recovery even on a placebo, making the evaluation of sensorineural hearing loss treatments challenging. However, this article’s analysis suggests a relationship between improvement and recovery following hyperbaric treatment and the rate of symptoms onset during the baseline period.

Materials & Methods

In this study, the researchers used data from multiple sources to assess the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for sensorineural hearing loss. Data from over one thousand patients with sensorineural hearing loss treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy constituted the clinical study. In addition, they compared this data to previous observational studies involving hyperbaric oxygen therapy for other types of hearing impairments. Ultimately, the researcher made a valuable contribution by identifying factors associated with improved hearing following hyperbaric treatment.


This study’s results suggest an association between the type of symptoms experienced prior to initiation and the rate at which the symptoms resolved following the treatment. In particular, patients who develop symptoms of dizziness before initiating treatment are more likely to show improved hearing after completion of therapy than those who start experiencing symptoms during treatment.

Additionally, other factors, such as the patency of the labyrinthine artery and other health factors, may also impact the treatment’s efficacy. Based on this research, healthcare providers should make every effort to identify contributing elements to improve patient outcomes and maximize the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. However, the research provides hope for many patients seeking sensorineural hearing loss treatment, as the condition can be debilitating for many.

Patients with chronic sensorineural hearing loss who began treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy shortly after the onset of hearing loss showed the most significant potential for improvement on hearing tests after treatment. In addition, the researchers also found that a younger age at the time of initial hearing loss onset was associated with more significant improvements after treatment. Another important indicator of the success of the treatment is the patient’s capacity to distribute oxygen throughout the body.

The researchers found that patients who efficiently distribute oxygen to peripheral tissues during hyperbaric treatment tended to experience the most significant improvement in their hearing. These findings indicate that pre-treatment assessments of a patient’s ability to maintain good oxygen levels throughout their body may play an essential role in determining the efficacy of the therapy.

How Long Do The Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Last?

Following a session of hyperbaric treatment, patients can expect the results to last from a week to a month, depending on the type of treatment they have received. However, Murphy-Lavoie’s study does note that some patients saw lasting improvement for months after the treatment had ended. This fact suggests that hyperbaric oxygen treatment can provide long-lasting benefits for patients suffering from sensorineural hearing loss.

This duration of effect is comparable to other sensorineural hearing loss treatment options, including surgery and hearing aids. Because these effects are temporary, some patients may choose to receive additional treatments to help maintain the results over the long term. As future research sheds additional light on the effects of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, doctors may be able to better predict how long these effects will last for each patient.

Contraindications To Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy For Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Fortunately, the researchers found far fewer contraindications than they did positive ones. However, it’s essential to note that those with pneumothorax or other untreated lung diseases should not use this treatment, making it the most critical contra-indicator. Other factors to consider when determining whether a patient is a good candidate for this treatment include psychological factors such as anxiety or depression and other medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

Additional Read: What Conditions Can Be Treated with HBOT?

The Bottom Line

Although the research should continue to shed more light on the topic, significant evidence supports hyperbaric oxygen as an effective sensorineural hearing loss treatment. The above study found that patients treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy experienced a significant improvement in their hearing and their ability to localize sounds compared to a control group.

The researchers also noted that patients’ hearing improved after completing the treatment regimen, indicating that the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen treatment are likely to continue. These findings further strengthen the argument for hyperbaric oxygen treatment as a valuable treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss.

To learn more about the exciting potential of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for tinnitus or sudden hearing loss, please contact our team at Next Gen Hyperbaric at 888-567-4302.