Senior woman at home using laptop computer

According to the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), a sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea), or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, a SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.

SYMPTOMS OF A SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS MAY INCLUDE

  • Loud sounds may bother you more than someone without a SNHL
  • Difficulty following conversations when two or more people are talking
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy areas
  • The ability to hear men’s voices better than women’s voices
  • Difficulty discerning high-pitched sounds (such as “s” or “th”) from one another
  • Thinking that other people’s voices sound mumbled or slurred
  • Problems hearing in the presence of background noise
  • Ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears (tinnitus)

CAUSES OF A SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

The inner part of the ear contains tiny hair cells (nerve endings), which change sounds into electric signals. The nerves then carry these signals to the brain.  Damage can occur in either or both of those locations resulting in a sensorineural hearing loss.  The loss can be present at birth (congenital), or acquired (occurring after birth).  Some possible causes of a sensorineural hearing loss can include:

  • Illness
  • Ototoxic Medications (drugs that are poisonous to the auditory system)
  • Hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary)
  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Infections
  • Disease of the blood vessels
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections (for ex. meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever and/or measles)
  • Tumors (an acoustic neuroma is just one example)

TREATMENT OF A SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

Once any underlying medical condition (for example: trauma, illness or a tumor) has been resolved, treatment will focus on improving your hearing. The treatment options may include the following:

  • Hearing aids
  • Telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices
  • A cochlear implant may be recommended for certain people with very severe hearing loss who cannot be helped with the use of hearing aids.