Whenever a sound wave hits your ear, miniature nerve endings in your inner ear convert them into electric signals that your brain comprehends as sounds. However, these nerve endings can be damaged, as can other structures in your inner ear, leading to a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.
In most cases, sensorineural deafness doesn’t result in a complete inability to hear. The hearing loss is frequently limited to certain sounds and frequencies. Some sounds can seem too loud, while others can seem much less distinctive. Recognizing speech patterns becomes particularly difficult, in particular when listening in a noisy environment. Following conversations can become difficult, especially if several people are speaking, while men’s voices may sound clearer than women’s. Difficulties in hearing aren’t the only symptom of sensorineural deafness: ringing in the ears and dizziness can also occur.
There are many different causes of sensorineural hearing loss. In some cases the individual has this problem from birth. Genetic problems can result in many forms of congenital sensorineural deafness, while in other cases infections passed from mother to infant are the real cause.
Sensorineural hearing loss that starts later life can have many numerous underlying causes. Contact with an extremely loud noise – also called acoustic trauma – is one possible reason. Consistent exposure to lower level noise, such as listening to loud music or working with noisy equipment, can also lead to inner ear damage.
Sensorineural hearing loss can come on suddenly, such as in the case of viral infections. The viruses that lead to meningitis, measles and mumps can all result in hearing loss. Meniere’s Disease, a syndrome that causes tinnitus, vertigo and hearing loss, can also lead to fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by tumors, as well as head trauma and abrupt changes in air pressure. 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 profoundly negative impact on your quality of life, there are treatment options available.