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Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the cochlea and/or auditory nerve is damaged or malfunctions and is unable to accurately send information to the brain.

Most commonly it occurs when the delicate cells (called hair cells) located in the inner ear become damaged or destroyed. These tiny cells are responsible for picking up sounds in the environment and turning them into electrical signals sent to the brain for processing.

The common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are;

  • Congenital hearing loss (present from birth)
  • Presbycusis (the natural ageing process)
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Genetics (inherited from parents)
  • Trauma or injury to the head
  • Adverse reactions to medication or toxins
  • Other Diseases, eg. Meniere’s or Meningitis.

Understanding sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing losses can present in varying degrees and can affect all components of the frequency range. This type of loss results is sounds to not only appear softer, but also unclear and difficult to understand, particularly when in a noisy environment. The hearing loss can often be accompanied by other symptoms like ringing in the ear (tinnitus), dizziness or light-headedness (vertigo).

One of the most common or irritating causes is prolonged exposure to environmental noise or noise-induced hearing loss. Using headphones at a high volume over time or being in loud environments regularly can be a risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

The most common sensorineural hearing loss is age-related (presbycusis). The next most common form is noise-induced hearing loss. Other causes include auditory neuropathy, where nerves that carry the sound information malfunction or are damaged. Diseases such as mumps, multiple sclerosis, meningitis or Meniere’s disease can also cause sensorineural hearing loss.

Audiologists diagnose this type of hearing loss by completing Pure Tone Audiometry testing, mapping the results on a chart called an Audiogram.

Most cases of sensorineural loss show a gradual deterioration of hearing thresholds occurring over years to decades. In some people, the loss can affect large portions of the frequency range. It can be accompanied by other symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo (a type of severe dizziness), or an intolerance to loud sounds.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent in nature. There is no proven or recommended medical treatment or cure. Management focuses on the use of hearing aids, assistive technology and communication training. In cases of profound or total deafness, a cochlear implant may restore some levels of hearing.

Sourced from:

Audio Advantage (opens in a new window)
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