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What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss? - Hearing, Balance and Speech Center

In the United States, approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur at any stage in life; from infants who are born with hearing loss up to elderly adults who suffer from gradual hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be categorized into two main types: sensorineural and conductive. Although rarer, it is possible to have both types at the same time. This is known as mixed hearing loss. Hearing loss can vary in its severity. It may be a mild hindrance, to a severe impairment.

Sensorineural hearing loss (also known as nerve deafness) is the third most common disorder in adults over 65, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.  Although sensorineural hearing loss is most common in seniors, studies from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) point to sensorineural hearing loss affecting one in eight people over the age of 12 in the United States. 

What Causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss that happens along with the aging process (presbycusis). Permanent sensorineural hearing loss is caused by the loss of the delicate hair cells within the cochlea of the ear. People are born with a limited number of these cells. Once damaged, these cells do not repair themselves. 

Age-related hearing loss can happen to everyone. Damage to the cochlea, however, could be due to: 

  • Frequent and prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Infectious diseases, such as Rubella, Lyme, or Syphilis
  • Trauma or injury to the head
  • Tumors or growths on the auditory nerve
  • Family history and / or genetics

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the ability to hear quiet sounds. It can also diminish the clarity of sounds that are heard. Other symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include: 

  • Frequently needing to ask people to repeat things 
  • Difficulty understanding speech if you cannot see the person’s mouth
  • Fatigue, from straining to hear
  • Difficulty understanding in noisy environments
  • Feeling like people around you are constantly mumbling
  • Difficulty hearing high pitched sounds
  • Tinnitus - also known as ringing in the ears, tinnitus is a common side effect of sensorineural hearing loss. 

When a person with sensorineural leaves the condition untreated for a long period of time, their social interactions can become strained and they begin to experience frustrations when communicating with friends and family. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured at this time. Hearing aids may help to reduce the impact.

If you suspect that you, or a loved one may be experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, don’t delay seeking treatment. On average, people with hearing loss wait up to 7 years before seeking help. Your quality of life can be improved! Get in touch with the hearing healthcare specialists at Hearing, Balance & Speech Center. Please request an appointment online.