Coordinated Health

Conditions

Definition

Sensorineural deafness is a type of hearing loss. It occurs from damage to the inner ear, the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain (auditory nerve), or the brain.

Alternative Names

Nerve deafness; Hearing loss – sensorineural; Acquired hearing loss; SNHL; Noise-induced hearing loss; NIHL

Considerations

Symptoms may include:

  • Some sounds seem too loud.
  • You have problems following conversations when two or more people are talking.
  • You have problems hearing in noisy areas.
  • It is easier to hear men’s voices than women’s voices.
  • It is hard to tell high-pitched sounds (such as “s” or “th”) from one another.
  • Other people’s voices sound mumbled or slurred.
  • You have problems hearing when there is background noise.

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling of being off-balance or dizzy (more common with Meniere’s disease and acoustic neuromas)
  • Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears (tinnitus)

Causes

The inner part of the ear contains tiny hair cells (nerve endings), that change sounds into electric signals. The nerves then carry these signals to the brain.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is caused by damage to these special cells, or to the nerve fibers in the inner ear. Sometimes, the hearing loss is caused by damage to the nerve that carries the signals to the brain.

Sensorineural deafness that is present at birth (congenital) is most often due to:

  • Genetic syndromes
  • Infections that the mother passes to her baby in the womb (toxoplasmosis, rubella, herpes)

Sensorineural hearing loss may develop in children or adults later in life (acquired) as a result of:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Disease of the blood vessels
  • Immune disease
  • Infections, such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles
  • Injury
  • Loud noises or sounds, or loud sounds that last for a long time
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Tumor, such as acoustic neuroma
  • Use of certain medicines
  • Working around loud noises everyday

In some cases, the cause is unknown.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The goal of treatment is to improve your hearing. The following may be helpful:

  • Hearing aids
  • Telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices
  • Sign language (for those with severe hearing loss)
  • Speech reading (such as lip reading and using visual cues to aid communication)

A cochlear implant may be recommended for certain people with very severe hearing loss. Surgery is done to place the implant. The implant makes sounds seem louder, but does not restore normal hearing.

You will also learn strategies for living with hearing loss and advice to share with those around you for talking to someone with hearing loss.

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