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 structures in your inner ear, leading to a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.
An individual who is suffering from sensorineural hearing loss is not necessarily completely deaf. Rather, it reduces the individual’s ability to hear particular sounds. Some sounds can seem too loud, while others may seem much less distinct. Noisy conditions may make it difficult for you to single out speech patterns. Tracking conversations can become difficult, particularly if two or more people are speaking, while men’s voices may sound clearer than women’s. Some other symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss are feelings of dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
There is no single cause of sensorineural deafness that applies to all individuals. In some cases the individual has this problem from birth. Genetic issues can result in many forms of congenital sensorineural hearing loss, while in other cases infections passed from mother to infant are the root cause.
The reasons for sensorineural deafness later in life are much more varied. Exposure to an extremely loud noise – also called acoustic trauma – is one possible reason. The damage can also accumulate from continuous contact with loud noises. This reason for sensorineural hearing loss is quite common among construction workers or musicians.
Viral infections can cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Viruses such as meningitis, mumps and measles can all lead to this issue. Equally problematic is Meniere’s Disease, which can lead to fluctuating hearing loss as well as vertigo and tinnitus. Both conditions can potentially be treated with corticosteroids.
Tumors can cause sensorineural hearing loss as can sudden changes in air pressure and head traumas. 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. Luckily it can be improved or reversed in many cases.