The countless miniature nerve endings in your inner ear are essential to your ability to hear. Unfortunately, these nerve endings can be damaged, as can other components in your inner ear, leading to a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.
Typically, sensorineural deafness does not result in a complete inability to hear. In fact, in many cases only certain sounds become hard to hear. Some sounds may seem too loud, while others may seem much less distinctive. Background noise often compounds the problem. Speech can be particularly challenging to understand in noisy environments. Men’s voices frequently sound more clear than higher-pitched women’s voices and tracking conversations with several speakers is particularly challenging. People with sensorineural hearing loss may also find themselves feeling dizzy or experiencing ringing in the ears.
There is no single cause of sensorineural deafness that applies to all individuals. Sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth for some individuals. Congenital sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by genetic syndromes, as well as by infections that can pass from mother to infant..
As a person grows older, sensorineural hearing loss can be the result of a number of different causes. One such trigger is acoustic trauma, or exposure to an extremely loud noise. Similarly, long term exposure to loud noise (typical of construction workers and musicians) can cause inner ear damage.
Many people don’t realize that a virus can lead to sudden, sensorineural hearing loss. These infections include mumps, meningitis and measles. Equally problematic is Meniere’s Disease, which can lead to fluctuating hearing loss as well as tinnitus and vertigo. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.
Tumors can cause sensorineural hearing loss as can sudden changes in air pressure and head traumas. Otosclerosis, a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth in the middle ear disrupts hearing, is another physical cause of sensorineural hearing loss.
Without treatment sensorineural hearing loss often reduces quality of life. Fortunately it can be improved or reversed in many cases.