The countless miniature nerve endings in your inner ear are central to your hearing. If these nerve endings are destroyed, or if damage occurs in other regions of the inner ear, sensorineural hearing loss can result.
Sensorineural hearing loss typically does not lead to total deafness. Instead, it reduces the individual’s ability to hear particular sounds. Some sounds may seem too loud, while others can seem much less distinct. Discerning speech patterns becomes especially difficult, especially when listening in a noisy environment. The individual may have trouble when trying to follow a conversation with more than one person speaking and may find that women’s voices are harder to follow than men’s voices. People with sensorineural deafness may also find themselves feeling dizzy or experiencing ringing in the ears.
There are many different causes of sensorineural hearing loss. Sometimes this form of hearing loss is present since birth. The disorder could have an underlying genetic cause. It can also come about from certain infections which can be passed from mother to child.
The causes of sensorineural deafness later in life are much more varied. Contact with an extremely loud noise – also known as acoustic trauma – is one possible reason. Steady exposure to lower level noise, such as working with noisy equipment or listening to loud music, can also lead to inner ear damage.
Many people don’t realize that a virus can lead to sudden, sensorineural hearing loss. The viruses that lead to measles, mumps and meningitis can all result in hearing loss. Meniere’s Disease, a syndrome that causes vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus, can also lead to fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss. Corticosteroids may prove helpful in these two cases.
Head trauma and abrupt changes in air pressure can cause sensorineural hearing loss, as can other physical issues such as tumors. Otosclerosis, a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth in the middle ear disrupts hearing, is another physical cause of sensorineural hearing loss.
While sensorineural hearing loss can have a hugely negative impact on your quality of life, there are treatments available.