The countless tiny nerve endings in your inner ear are central to your ability to hear. However, these nerve endings can be damaged, as can other components in your inner ear, resulting in a condition known as sensorineural deafness.
Sensorineural hearing loss typically doesn’t result in complete deafness. In fact, in many cases only certain sounds become hard to hear. An individual affected by sensorineural hearing loss make claim that some sounds are actually too loud while other sounds are instinct and muffled. Background noise often compounds the problem. Speech can be particularly hard to decipher in noisy environments. Men’s voices frequently sound clearer than higher-pitched women’s voices and tracking conversations with several speakers is particularly challenging. Troubles in hearing aren’t the only symptom of sensorineural hearing loss: ringing in the ears and dizziness can also arise.
There is no single cause of sensorineural hearing loss that applies to all individuals. Sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth for some individuals. Genetic problems can result in many forms of congenital sensorineural deafness, while in other cases infections passed from mother to infant are the root cause.
As a person grows older, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by a number of different issues. One such trigger is acoustic trauma, or exposure to an excessively loud noise. Similarly, long term exposure to loud noise (often experienced by construction workers and musicians) can cause inner ear damage.
Sensorineural hearing loss can come on suddenly, such as in the case of viral infections. These infections include measles, mumps and meningitis. Fluctuating hearing loss that comes and goes combined with vertigo and tinnitus can be a sign of Meniere’s Disease. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.
Abrupt changes in air pressure and head trauma can cause sensorineural hearing loss, as can other physical issues such as tumors. Other physical reasons for sensorineural hearing loss include the hereditary disorder otosclerosis where a bony growth in the inner ear interferes with hearing.
Without treatment sensorineural hearing loss often reduces quality of life. Fortunately it can be improved or reversed in many cases.