What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

90% of all hearing loss is sensorineural (pronounced “sensory-neural”), which is hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain.  Below are the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss.

  • Aging: As you age, hearing loss is pretty much inevitable.
  • Noise Exposure: Firearms, heavy machinery, music… if it hurts your ears, it’s probably hurting your hearing.
  • Head Trauma: Falls, concussions, sports injuries… when your head gets jolted, your hearing “system” can suffer.
  • Virus or Disease: Diseases that spike fevers, like measles, meningitis, and mumps, can lead to hearing loss.
  • Genetics: Good looks and goofy jokes aren’t the only things moms and dads pass down.
  • Ototoxicity: Believe it or not, medications like aspirin, certain antibiotics, and some anti-cancer drugs can cause hearing loss.

If you have sensorineural hearing loss – no matter the cause – there is a good chance you can benefit from wearing hearing aids.  Call one of our offices to schedule an appointment today. Together we will improve your quality of life by finding the hearing aid that will work best with your budget and lifestyle.

What are the Various Forms of Hearing Loss?

There are a few distinct forms of hearing loss, determined by which portion of the auditory pathway is affected. In this article we offer an overview of five types – conductive, sensorineural, central, functional and mixed. The starting point in developing a therapy plan is to correctly establish the kind of hearing loss.

  • Conductive hearing loss – In situations where sound waves aren’t properly conducted to the interior of the ear through the parts of the outer and middle ear, conductive hearing loss arises. This is quite common and can be caused by an accumulation of ear wax, a buildup of fluid in the eustacian tube, which prevents the eardrum from moving properly, a middle ear infection, a perforated eardrum, disease of the tiny bones of the middle ear or blockages in the ear canal.Most cases of conductive hearing loss are reversible, presuming there isn’t any irreversible damage to the parts of the middle ear, and with treatment the trouble usually resolves fairly quickly. For some patients surgery can help to correct the issue or a hearing aid may be fitted.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss – Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for more than 90% of the instances in which a hearing aid is used. It is the result of damage in the interior of the ear or to the acoustic nerve, which prevents sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. Also known as nerve deafness or retrocochlear hearing loss, the damage is for the most part permanent, though breakthroughs in technology have allowed some formerly untreatable cases to see some improvement. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging, extended exposure to noise, problems with circulation of blood to the inner ear, fluid disturbance in the inner ear, medications that cause damage to the ear, some diseases, heredity and problems with the auditory nerve. Hearing aids are sufficient for most people that have this sort of hearing loss, but in more serious cases, a cochlear implant may help restore hearing to those for whom a typical hearing aid is not enough.
  • Central hearing loss – This condition arises in situations where an issue in the central nervous system blocks sound signals from being processed by the brain. Affected individuals can ostensibly hear perfectly well, but can’t decode or decipher what is being said. Many cases involve a problem with the individual’s ability to adequately filter competing sounds. For example, the majority of us can have a conversation while there is traffic noise in the background, but individuals with central hearing loss have a really hard time with this.
  • Mixed hearing loss – As the term suggests, mixed hearing loss is a combination of multiple types of hearing loss, in this case the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Although there are a couple of other types of hearing loss, the combination of these 2 is most common.
  • Functional hearing loss – An infrequent occurrence, functional hearing loss does not have a psysiological explanation. This condition is due to an emotional or psychological condition in which the person‚Äôs physical ability to hear is normal, but they do not seem to be able to hear.

Hearing Loss Classification Terminology and Meanings

Just as there are numerous reasons for hearing loss, there are many different forms of hearing loss; understanding the way that we hear is the beginning of understanding the different types. We collect sounds through the outer ear, which isn’t only the portion of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the eardrum and the ear canal. The eardrum is also regarded part of the middle ear, an area that also includes the three tiny bones called ossicles that carry the vibrations of sound and transmit them to the inner ear. The inner ear has three key parts – the cochlea, the two semi-circular canals (essential for balance) and the acoustic nerves which transmit the impulses to the brain. All these parts are incredibly sophisticated and sensitive, and a problem in any area can lead to hearing loss. Four different classifications constitute what we mean when we refer to “hearing loss.”

Conductive hearing loss is due to something interfering with the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear. This form of hearing loss can often be remedied by medication or surgery; if surgery is not an option, it can be treated with hearing aids.

Damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea, hair cells lining the inner ear, or the acoustic nerves is called sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids are usually the best option for treating sensorineural hearing loss, as most cases are not successfully remedied with medication or surgery.

Mixed hearing loss involves both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, and can occasionally (but not always) be treated with a combination of surgery, medication, and/or hearing aids.

Central hearing loss occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage either to the inner ear (especially to the cochlea) or to the auditory nerves, it cannot be organized in a way that the brain can understand.

All hearing loss classifications include sub-categories for the degree of hearing loss and are classified as mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Hearing loss is typically classified with additional sub-categories including whether the hearing loss occurs in one or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), or whether the hearing loss occurred before or after learning to speak (pre-lingual or post-lingual). Hearing loss can also be categorized as having occurred slowly or gradually (progressive vs. sudden), whether the degree of loss changes and gets better at times or stays the same (fluctuating vs. stable), and whether the loss was present at birth or developed later in life (congenital vs. acquired). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.