The most common type of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss results in difficulty understanding differences in loudness, pitch, and the meaning behind sounds. The treatment and severity of the loss depend on what’s causing the problem, as some can be medically treated and temporary and others require hearing aids.
What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
A type of hearing loss that results from damage to the tiny hair cells located in your inner ear or cochlea (the organ responsible for sensory hearing) or damage to the nerves that travel from there to your brain, sensorineural hearing loss is caused from natural aging, noise, or disease.
Because the damage done to these tiny hairs is permanent, prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels are often a result of an unhealthy work environment or listening to loud music often. Disease and trauma can also spring up a surprise issue, as there are many other ways to damage your inner ear.
And this type of hearing problem is becoming more and more common today. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in eight people over the age of 12 have hearing loss and over 90% of that is sensorineural in nature.
Throughout life, everyone loses some of the little hair cells in their ears. But once they’re gone, they don’t regrow. Hearing becomes less accurate as things like noise and environmental triggers damage these hairs. Inevitable as it is, there are some less common causes you should be aware of.
Causes can range from a build-up of fluid in the ear thanks to disease, trauma to the ear from being hit on the side of the head or take place after an extremely prolonged loud noise like a weekend-long concert, and so much more. Other common causes include:
- Natural aging
- Medications toxic for hearing
- Genetic hearing loss
- Certain drugs like Aspirin
- Antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamicin
- Trauma or fracture of the head/ear
- Exposure to loud noise or explosions
You can also suffer from random and sudden hearing loss if you have been exposed to certain viral illnesses. These are usually infectious and including the following common diseases:
- Meniere’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
In some cases, viral or bacterial ear infections are the culprit, where the hearing loss comes on suddenly and varies in severity. Other times, a tumor can push on a nerve used for hearing to change the pitch you hear, which is often associated with tinnitus and a lack of balance.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Commonly known as sudden deafness, sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs rapidly and inexplicably a few times a day, usually in a single ear. Sometimes sound gradually becomes worse over the course of a few days while other cases are instant.
Contact a doctor if you experience this type of hearing loss, as it can have serious repercussions. About half of the people with sudden loss in only one ear recover within two weeks of receiving proper treatment. Earlier treatment could save your hearing.
Tests will determine your diagnosis, and often include blood labs to rule out syphilis, Lyme disease, autoimmune, or other disorders while an MRI will rule out any other possible disease.
Treatment varies depending on the patient, your mode of contracting sudden hearing loss, and other determinants. Your doctor may pick a treatment based on steroids, antiviral medications, carbogen therapy, reducing inflammation, or no treatment at all.
Often, hearing is restored in cases caused by disease simply by treating the disease. Sometimes surgery is required, and other times a combination of drug therapy and a change in diet can do the trick. Meniere’s disease, for instance, causes hearing loss and is treated with the combination of a low-sodium diet and corticosteroids.
Inner ear damage is permanent. Although, hearing aids are available to help you hear again. The best treatment option is that set by your doctor, as a qualified healthcare professional can determine the best course of action for your situation.
Permanent hearing impairment caused by sensorineural hearing loss can usually be helped surgically. With hearing aids and other devices, you can manage to live a normal life.
Some people may benefit from a cochlear implant or electronic hearing aid device that’s surgically implanted into the inner ear. Many patients wind up receiving cochlear implants to aid their hearing, especially if they experience severe unilateral sensorineural deafness.
Early treatment is also recommended with sensorineural issues, as it can usually be easily reversed or at least helped by medical procedures and hearing aids. The best way to know if you have this type of hearing loss is to visit an ear doctor for a full hearing evaluation. Never hesitate if you think you have a hearing issue. The tests are quick and easy, so why suffer a lower quality of life?