Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Not all types of hearing loss are the same. In fact, there are three main kinds of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the most common kinds of hearing loss, and about 90% of people with hearing loss have this type of hearing loss. 

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

If you have sensorineural hearing loss, this means you have damage in the inner ear, in the pathway from the ear to the brain, or in the auditory regions of the brain. Most commonly, sensorineural hearing loss happens when the cells in the inner ear are damaged.

The inner ear, called the cochlea, is filled with fluid. Floating in the fluid are tiny hair cells that can sense any movement in the fluid that’s caused by sound waves. However, when these cells are damaged, they can’t sense the movement, and they don’t send signals to the brain. When this happens, you’ll experience hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. There’s no way to repair the cells in your inner ear. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, your best option is to treat your hearing loss with hearing aids to help you hear all the sounds around you.

What Causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Several factors can cause sensorineural hearing loss. These are the most common causes of hearing loss:

  • Age – Over time, the cells in the inner ear can wear out. Age-related hearing loss affects up to 50% of seniors over the age of 75. This type of hearing loss is gradual and usually impacts both ears.
  • Noise – Another common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is noise. Noise-induced hearing loss happens when you’re exposed to dangerously loud noise. These loud sounds can damage the cells in the inner ear and cause sensorineural hearing loss. Sometimes all it takes is one extremely loud sound to cause permanent hearing loss.
  • Ear infection – Ear infections, whether bacterial or viral, can cause hearing loss. When the infection damaged the cells in the inner ear, you’ll experience hearing loss.
  • Head injury – Anyone who suffers a concussion or other head injury should get their hearing tested. An injury can damage the cells in the ear, in the auditory pathway to the brain, or the auditory regions of the brain. 

Gradual Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is gradual. You won’t immediately notice changes in your hearing abilities. It may take several months before you start to realize you’ve been missing sounds. In rare cases, sensorineural hearing loss can be sudden. If you experience sudden hearing loss or deafness in one or both ears, you should seek medical attention right away.

What Does Sensorineural Hearing Loss Sound Like?

Sensorineural hearing loss makes it harder to hear soft sounds. In most cases, sounds will be much harder to hear since hearing loss affects the loudness of the sound. But that’s not all. Sensorineural hearing loss also affects the clarity of sounds. This means that even if you can mostly hear what’s being said, you may struggle to make sense of all the words.

Sensorineural hearing loss makes sounds seem muffled or makes some sounds quieter than others. High-pitched sounds are often more affected. So you may have difficulty hearing certain speech sounds like consonant sounds that are often higher pitched. 

Treating Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Hearing aids are usually the best treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing devices can be programmed to fit your unique hearing needs. The programs are calibrated to your exact hearing loss and they’ll help you hear the pitches you have the hardest time hearing.

Hearing aids can also help you understand conversations. Speech enhancement programs make it easier to follow what’s being said. Sounds will seem crisp and clear, without any uncomfortable distortion. 

If you think you have sensorineural hearing loss, contact us today to book a hearing test. We’ll get to the bottom of your hearing loss, find out what caused your hearing loss, and recommend the best treatment options for your hearing needs. Together we’ll create a personalized treatment plan that includes hearing aids, regular cleanings, and annual hearing tests to monitor your hearing health.