Whenever a sound wave hits your ear, tiny nerve endings in your inner ear convert them into electric signals that your brain understands as sounds. Unfortunately, these nerve endings can be damaged, as can other components in your inner ear, resulting in a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss generally doesn’t lead to total deafness. The hearing loss is often limited to certain frequencies and sounds. Some sounds may seem too loud, while others may seem much less distinct. Recognizing speech patterns becomes especially difficult, in particular when listening in a noisy environment. Following conversations may become difficult, especially if two or more people are speaking, while men’s voices may sound clearer than women’s. Additional symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss are feelings of dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
There is no single cause of sensorineural hearing loss that applies to all individuals. In some cases the individual has this problem from birth. Congenital sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by genetic syndromes, as well as by infections that can pass from mother to infant..
Sensorineural hearing loss that starts later life can have many numerous underlying causes. Acoustic trauma, exposure to an exceedingly loud noise, can cause this issue. The damage can also accumulate from ongoing contact with loud noises. This reason for sensorineural hearing loss is very common among construction workers or musicians.
Many people don’t realize that a virus can lead to sudden, sensorineural hearing loss. These infections include measles, meningitis and mumps. Fluctuating hearing loss that comes and goes combined with tinnitus and vertigo can be a sign of Meniere’s Disease. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.
Head trauma and abrupt changes in air pressure can cause sensorineural hearing loss, as can other physical issues such as tumors. A hereditary disorder known as otosclerosis can cause a bony growth to form around an important bone in the middle ear, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.
Without treatment sensorineural hearing loss often diminishes quality of life. Fortunately it can be reversed or improved in many cases.