Much of your hearing is governed by miniature nerve endings in your inner ear. If these nerve endings (or other structures in the inner ear) are harmed, the result is sensorineural hearing impairment.
A person who is affected by sensorineural hearing loss is not necessarily completely deaf. Actually, in many cases only particular sounds become difficult to hear. You might notice that some types of sounds are much less distinctive, while others are too loud for comfort. Noisy conditions may make it tough for you to single out speech patterns. Men’s voices frequently sound clearer than higher-pitched women’s voices and tracking conversations with multiple speakers is particularly difficult. People with sensorineural hearing loss may also find themselves feeling dizzy or experiencing tinnitus.
There is no single cause of sensorineural deafness that applies to all individuals. Sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth for some people. 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.
Sensorineural hearing loss that starts later life can have many different root causes. Acoustic trauma, contact with an exceedingly loud noise, can lead to this issue. Steady exposure to lower level noise, such as listening to loud music or working with noisy equipment, can also result in inner ear damage.
Viral infections can cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss. These infections include meningitis, measles and mumps. 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.
Head trauma and abrupt changes in air pressure 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 diminishes quality of life. Luckily it can be reversed or improved in many cases.