Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing impairment that occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the nerve pathways that transmit sound from the inner ear to the brain.
This type of hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud noises (prolonged or sudden), age-related hearing loss, or certain medical conditions.
A person with sensorineural hearing loss may find it challenging to hear faint sounds, recognize speech, or understand conversations in noisy environments.
If you are experiencing sudden hearing loss, please seek out an ENT for IMMEDIATE treatment.
Sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Delayed treatment can lead to permanent hearing loss. Don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you experience sudden hearing loss, as time is of the essence.
What are the signs and symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss may develop gradually or suddenly. If you notice any of the following symptoms below, best see an audiologist right away for proper assessment and intervention.
Sensorineural hearing loss symptoms:
- Difficulty hearing faint or distant sounds
- Difficulty understanding speech, especially in places with lots of background noises
- Struggling to distinguish between similar-sounding words
- A constant need to turn up the volume on devices
- Buzzing or ringing in the ears
- Diminished ability to hear high-pitched sounds (a child’s laugh or a woman’s voice)
What causes sensorineural hearing loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by several factors, including:
Genetics and hereditary factors can also play a role in the development of sensorineural hearing loss. Individuals with a family history of hearing loss may be more likely to develop hearing problems themselves.
Additionally, certain genetic conditions, such as Usher syndrome or otosclerosis, can cause sensorineural hearing loss as well.
If you have a family history of hearing loss, it’s important to inform your audiologist, who can provide regular hearing evaluations and appropriate treatment options to manage your hearing health.
Early detection and management of hearing loss due to hereditary factors can help prevent further damage and improve quality of life.
Congenital sensorineural hearing loss refers to a type of hearing loss that is present at birth or develops early in life. This type of hearing loss is caused by a problem in the inner ear (sensorineural) or the auditory nerve and is due to genetic factors.
Some factors that may cause congenital sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Genetic mutations that affect the development of the auditory nerve or inner ear
- Congenital infections, such as cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, rubella, herpes, or syphilis.
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
Identifying congenital sensorineural hearing loss is critical to ensure that the appropriate intervention and support are put in place.
Through early detection and management of congenital hearing loss, a child can have a better chance to enjoy normal learning and development.
As we age, the hair cells in the inner ear responsible for converting sound into electrical signals for the brain can become damaged or lost, leading to a decline in hearing ability. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. It occurs gradually over time and is often associated with the natural aging process.
Exposure to loud noises is another common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. When the inner ear is exposed to loud or excessive noise, it can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. This damage can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and difficulty hearing in noisy environments.
We highly recommend wearing appropriate hearing protection in noisy environments. This can include earmuffs, earplugs, or custom-fit hearing protection.
Limiting exposure to loud sounds, taking regular breaks from loud noises, and using noise-canceling earbuds or headphones can also help lower your vulnerability to hearing loss due to loud noise exposure.
How can you prevent hearing loss?
Cliche as this may sound, prevention is better than cure when it comes to hearing loss. Except for genetic hearing loss, this condition can be prevented by following the steps below:
- Avoid or limit exposure to loud noises: Noises above 85 decibels are considered to be dangerous to your hearing. If your job or hobby exposes you to dangerously loud decibels, see to it that you use the appropriate hearing protection and that you take regular breaks from the loud sounds.
- Wear hearing protection: We couldn’t stress this more. Use appropriate hearing protection in noisy environments. You can consult with an audiologist and ask them to recommend the best hearing protection suited for your lifestyle.
- Turn the volume down: Make it a habit to use earbuds or headphones at a safe volume level.
- Get regular hearing check-ups: If you are constantly exposed to loud noises, it’s a wise idea to get regular hearing check-ups to monitor your hearing health.
- Manage chronic conditions: Did you know that chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes can also affect hearing in the long run? If you are diagnosed with any of this conditions, make sure to manage them to avoid complications that may affect your hearing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Loss
How is sudden deafness diagnosed?
Sudden deafness is diagnosed through a comprehensive hearing evaluation performed by an audiologist or hearing healthcare professional. The evaluation usually starts with a thorough case history, and some tests including otoscopy, differential testing, tympanometry, audiometry to assess the type and severity of hearing loss. Other diagnostic tests, such as MRI or CT scans, may also be performed to rule out other underlying causes of sudden deafness. Early diagnosis is important in order to initiate appropriate treatment and prevent further hearing loss.
A thorough case history is essential to establish any possible genetic or medical factors that could cause sudden deafness. During this stage, try to be as accurate as possible so that the examiner can come up with a definitive diagnosis.
During an otoscopy, the audiologist will inspect the ear for any signs of damage or disease, such as fluid behind the eardrum, earwax buildup, or any other abnormalities in the ear canal. This information can help the audiologist determine the cause of the hearing loss and make a diagnosis of sudden deafness.
Differential testing involves evaluating the patient’s hearing in each ear individually and comparing the results to determine if the hearing loss is isolated to one ear or if it is affecting both ears.
This type of testing is an essential part of the evaluation process for sudden deafness as it can help determine if the cause of the hearing loss is related to a problem in the ear itself, or if it is related to a problem in the brain. The results gathered from differential testing can help audiologists create an appropriate treatment plan for sudden deafness.
Tympanometry measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. A small probe is placed in the ear canal, and air pressure is applied and altered within the ear canal. An audiologist will measure the movement of the eardrum in response to these pressure changes.
Tympanometry can provide pertinent information about the health of the middle ear, including the integrity of the eardrum, the presence of fluid in the middle ear, and the function of the middle ear bones.
Typically, tympanometry is performed as part of a comprehensive hearing evaluation along with other tests, such as speech audiometry and pure-tone audiometry to diagnose sudden deafness.
Audiometry measures an individual’s ability to hear different sounds at varying frequencies and volumes. During the test, the patient listens to a series of sounds through headphones or earphones and signals when they can hear them. The results of the test are then plotted on an audiogram, which provides a graphical representation of the patient’s hearing ability.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Technically speaking, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is not the first line of testing for sudden deafness. While MRI can provide detailed images of the inner ear and surrounding structures, it is usually not necessary to diagnose sudden deafness.
MRI is recommended in cases when hearing test results are insufficient to diagnose sudden deafness. Put simply, if the cause of sudden deafness is unclear, additional testing such as an MRI or other imaging tests may be performed to rule out other potential causes, such as brain tumors or inner ear infections.
How is sudden deafness treated?
The treatment for sudden deafness depends on the underlying cause. Prompt medical attention is important for the best chances of recovery.
Hearing Health and Wellness Center offers a wide selection of diagnostic tests and treatments for sudden deafness using modern tools and equipment to give you the most accurate results possible.
It is critical to treat sudden sensorineural hearing loss as early as possible, as this can improve the chances of recovering your hearing.
Is there a cure for sensorineural hearing loss?
Currently, there is no specific cure or medication for sensorineural hearing loss.
However, there are a wide range of treatments available to help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss.
Such treatments include:
- Hearing aids
- Cochlear implants
- Assistive listening devices
- Speech therapy
If you’re in Plantsville, CT, and are looking for a trusted audiology clinic that can address sensorineural hearing loss and other hearing related concerns, contact Hearing Health and Wellness Clinic.
We are committed to offering the most comprehensive resource for hearing healthcare in central Connecticut. We take pride in offering the most advanced hearing instruments and audiological services in town.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment!