Whenever a sound wave hits your ear, miniature nerve endings in your inner ear convert them into electric signals that your brain comprehends as sounds. If these nerve endings (or other structures in the inner ear) are harmed, the result is often sensorineural hearing impairment.
Typically, sensorineural deafness does not result in a complete inability to hear. Actually, in many cases only particular sounds become difficult to hear. Some sounds may seem too loud, while others may seem much less distinctive. Noisy conditions can make it difficult for you to single out speech patterns. The person may have difficulty when trying to follow a conversation with more than one person speaking and may notice that women’s voices are harder to follow than men’s voices. Difficulties in hearing aren’t the only symptom of sensorineural hearing loss: tinnitus and dizziness can also occur.
There are many different causes of sensorineural hearing loss. Sometimes this form of deafness is present since birth. Congenital sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by genetic syndromes, as well as by infections that can pass from mother to infant in the womb.
The reasons for sensorineural hearing loss later in life are much more varied. One such cause 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.
Sensorineural hearing loss can come on suddenly, such as in the case of viral infections. The viruses that lead to measles, meningitis and mumps can all result in hearing loss. Fluctuating hearing loss that comes and goes combined with vertigo and tinnitus can be a sign of Meniere’s Disease. Corticosteroids may prove helpful in these two cases.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by tumors, as well as sudden changes in air pressure and head trauma. Otosclerosis, a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth in the middle ear disrupts hearing, is another physical cause of sensorineural hearing loss.
There is no denying that sensorineural hearing loss can drastically decrease your quality of life, but there are ways to address it.