What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is often referred to as SNHL. It is the main cause of hearing loss and is caused by damage in the inner ear or associated nerve pathways. It is often hard to identify whether sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage in the cochlea or to hearing nerves and pathways. Therefore, any damage to either the nerves or the inner ear structure is grouped together as sensorineural hearing loss.
The cochlea is a sensory organ and one that is vital for us to hear. It has lots of hair cells that help in the process of hearing sound. It is damage to these hair cells in the cochlea that impacts hearing loss. These hair cells help provide electric signals that the brain needs to interpret sound. These hair cells can be damaged in a variety of ways, as discussed within this article.
If you’re currently struggling with hearing loss and want to understand what to do next, please get in touch with our friendly team who can help support and guide you into finding diagnoses and solutions.
Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused in a variety of ways.
Presbycusis refers to sensorineural hearing loss associated with age. It is a condition caused by the aging of the cochlea and inner ear structures. This results in age related hearing loss. This is often a gradual deterioration of hearing.
Presbycusis can start very early in life but not be noticed until much later. It is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss and affects 1 in 3 people over the age of 65.
Presbycusis is usually associated with hearing loss of high frequency sounds more so than deeper frequency sounds.
Sensorineural hearing loss due to ageing is not preventable or reversible, however there are solutions that can help overcome hearing loss, as discussed in the treatment for sensorineural hearing loss in this article.
Some people are more genetically susceptible to the condition. Genetically inheriting genes associated with hearing loss can often be a cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Like many health problems, our genetic make-up impacts how our bodies cope and adapt to challenges.
Genetic conditions and syndromes can be passed down within families and impact the sensory organs in some way.
Drugs, Medication and Antibiotics
Although somewhat surprising, there are links between certain medications and hearing loss. Ototoxic is a word used to describe anything that is toxic/harmful to the ear and hearing system. Ototoxic medications include some antibiotics, loop diuretics, chemotherapeutic agents, antiseptics and disinfectants, and some industry used substances such as pesticides, heavy metals and solvents.
The impact of ototoxics can be both temporary and permanent.
Ototoxic medication is usually prescribed for very serious health problems and the known risks to hearing are considered before use.
For some ototoxic substances, a person’s genetics may impact their susceptibility to damage to their ears. Certain mutations can make an individual much more susceptible to the effects of ototoxics.
Exposure to loud noise damages the sensory and hearing organs. The intensity and duration of the loud noise will impact the damage it has on hearing loss.
Everyone is likely to overload and damage their hearing through everyday life, but certain activities and environments can speed up the damage to the cochlea and hearing structures.
If you want to understand what degree of hearing impairment you currently have, a hearing assessment and test will help identify any potential early signs of hearing loss. In many instances, understanding this and changing your behaviour and actions can help reduce the rate of future hearing loss.
Noise induced hearing loss (NINL) can be both temporary and permanent. Loud explosions and very loud noises can lead to sudden hearing loss. Head traumas can also cause some degree of hearing loss.
Disease and Infections
Certain diseases and infections can lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
Measles, meningitis, and mumps can all cause hearing loss. Tumours can also be a cause as well. Ménière’s disease also leads to sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss is twice as common with those who have diabetes compared to those with normal blood sugar levels. The high sugar content in the blood can damage the sensitive cells around the ear.
Treatment for Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The treatment and recommendations for sensorineural hearing loss are influenced by the specific conditions of each individual. As a result, the first step is to get a hearing assessment done to find out what the best option is for you and your circumstances.
There are studies into the use of pharmaceuticals to treat hearing loss but these are very limited and haven’t yet been clinically proven.
In severe cases of sensorineural hearing loss, a cochlea implant can be an option. This surgical procedure differs from hearing aids, which make sound louder, by replicating the job of the hair cells in the cochlea by creating signals for the brain to interpret as sound. This is quite complex surgery and treatment, and would usually only be recommended in certain circumstances.
The most common line of treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be fine-tuned to specific requirements and thus offer hearing enhancements on an individual basis. They help improve the ability to hear sound.
There are a variety of hearing aids including:
- Behind the ear hearing aids – these hearing aids wrap around the ear.
- In the ear hearing aids – these are very small devices that fit inside the ear
- In the canal hearing aids – these fit further inside the ear so are often more discreet or virtually invisible.
For help getting started in diagnosing and managing sensorineural hearing loss, get in touch with our passionate team today. We’re here to help provide the best support and guidance to ensure you find practical and lifechanging solutions to hearing loss.