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The SeaSHeL national prospective cohort study

Each year, approximately 20 people per 100,000 experience Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL). When this happens a person can lose hearing without warning, typically in one ear only. It can occur instantly or over several days. Sensorineural refers to a problem within the inner structures of the hearing mechanism.


Most patients with SSNHL will be seen by an NHS Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT) or at an Audiology clinic (hearing service). In up to 90% of cases the cause is not found, known as idiopathic SSNHL. As our knowledge about this condition is currently limited, the treatment a person gets across the NHS can vary greatly, with the main treatment being steroids. Fortunately, there are several new treatments in the pipeline.


This study will provide important information about patients with SSNHL and the care they currently receive, so that clinical trials on the new treatments can be run effectively.

The SeaSHeL Study has 3 main aims:

  1. To map the patient pathway and identify the characteristics of adult patients presenting to NHS ENT and hearing services with SSNHL. 
  2. To develop a model to predict recovery for patients with idiopathic SSNHL.
  3. To establish the impact of idiopathic SSNHL on patients’ quality of life (QoL).

We are collecting data from over 100 NHS trusts in the UK. ENT doctors and audiologists at various hospitals registered with our study are identifying patients who present with SSNHL. Routinely collected information about these patients is then submitted to the central study team for analysis.


The study is sponsored by University College London Hospital Foundation Trust and has support from the National Institute for Health Research.

We are looking for patient representatives for our study. These individuals may have experience of SSNHL as a patient, carer or family member of a patient. They will have the crucial role of helping to ensure our research meets the needs of patients with SSNHL.

If you are interested in this role please email for further details.

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