Hearing Health: Sensorineural Hearing Loss
As one of the most common types of hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is well-researched and fairly treatable. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed or is seeking a diagnosis, here's some information to help you learn more.
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When it comes to hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is the most pervasive. In fact, most people over a certain age experience some level of sensorineural hearing loss. Like our eyesight and memory, our sense of hearing can deteriorate over time. If you or a loved one is having trouble hearing or making out certain sounds, they might be suffering from sensorineural hearing loss. This article will touch on what this is, how it can be treated, and how to recognize it before it begins seriously affecting your life and relationships.
What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Before we assess the symptoms and treatment of sensorineural hearing loss, it’s important to understand what it is. There are a few different types of hearing loss, which can be caused by blockages or damage to the auditory nerve. However, sensorineural hearing loss refers to the cochlea, a vital organ in the hearing process.
After sound is fed through your ear, it reaches the cochlea. This is a spiral-shaped organ lined with microscopic hairs. Inside the cochlea, the hairs pick up the sound and determine factors like frequency and volume. From there, it is fed to the brain and processed as sound. When the hairs within the cochlea are worn down and damaged, this can result in sensorineural hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be experienced differently from person to person. Some people might have problems hearing certain pitches or voices, while others might struggle to hear anything at all. Because this form of hearing loss occurs gradually, a person might not know they have it until they receive their diagnosis. For that reason, it’s important to remember and recognize the signs before their condition gets worse.
Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
As expected, the primary symptom of hearing loss is a general dulling of your hearing. However, this can be difficult to gauge on your own, especially if you’ve been living with hearing loss for a long amount of time. Your brain works overtime to help you adjust, and anything can become normal after a time. Because of that, gradual hearing loss can be very difficult to recognize. General symptoms of hearing loss can include:
- Trouble hearing in crowded or noisy rooms (cocktail party effect).
- Muffled sounds and speech.
- Trouble hearing certain voices.
- Difficulty hearing consonants in speech.
- Turning up the television or radio past the point of comfort for other people.
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can also manifest as humming, roaring, or buzzing.
That being said, it’s important to remember that hearing loss itself is not the only symptom — people who experience hearing loss can also experience side effect symptoms like:
- Withdrawing from social situations and conversations.
- Feeling easily irritated or overwhelmed by sound.
- Trouble enjoying music, television, radio, or podcasts.
- Anxiety or paranoia that you’re not aware of your surroundings.
- Feeling fatigued at the end of the day, seemingly for no reason.
The symptoms of hearing loss can vary between people. While some experience irritability and depression, others might not even realize they have hearing loss. Some of these symptoms might even go under the radar since they can be mistaken for separate issues. Most people who receive diagnosis and treatment report feeling better than ever, now that the root issue of their problems is gone.
Hearing loss has more of an impact on your health than you might think. In fact, it can cause depression and memory loss when left untreated. Losing a sense can strain your brain, leaving you tired and anxious. Finding a hearing care professional and seeking a diagnosis might be the first step to getting treatment — and treating your hearing loss is the first step to treating the issues associated with it.
Treatment of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Unlike many cases of conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is not curable in the traditional sense. You cannot perform surgery or take medications to solve it. It is usually permanent, but that doesn’t mean it’s untreatable. In fact, seeking treatment can help prevent further damage, and alleviate the symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss altogether. When you receive a diagnosis, your hearing care professional (HCP) will speak to you about potential treatment options.
One such treatment option is hearing aids. While some people have a negative opinion of hearing aids, advancements in technology have made them one of the most effective avenues of treatment. While they might not completely return your hearing to its natural state, hearing aid manufacturers like Signia focus on delivering the most authentic experience possible.
Features like Own Voice Processing allow wearers to hear their own voice in a natural way, and add-ons like Bluetooth capability and direct streaming make it easier for hearing aid users to connect with their phones and other devices. Older models might have a reputation for being clunky and dissatisfying, hearing aid technology has progressed to the point where many people are opting to try a pair.
Choosing to purchase hearing aids is a big decision, so speak to your HCP about them. Getting fitted and trying out some hearing aids can give you insight on whether or not they are right for you. If you’re curious about hearing aids, consider reading other entries in the Signia Hearing blog to get the full picture.
Causes & Prevention of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
If you already have mild hearing loss or want to prevent it in yourself or other family members, you might be curious about how to prevent sensorineural hearing loss. Luckily, prevention is entirely possible. Achieving better hearing is a matter of prevention. Once damage to your ears has been done, it’s extremely difficult to repair.
People who protect their hearing when they’re young report lower levels of sensorineural hearing loss when they grow older. Meanwhile, people in certain occupations (construction, music, military) report higher rates of hearing loss due to noise exposure.
Prolonged exposure to noise degrades your cochlea, causing sensorineural hearing loss. For that reason, it’s important to protect your hearing when entering loud situations. This includes concerts, clubs, shooting ranges, gun shows, auto races, and other loud activities. Wearing earplugs is the primary method of protection, aside from avoiding these situations entirely. It is also important to give your ears a rest after loud activities. Enjoy some peace and quiet, and give your ears time to recover.
If you work in loud conditions, like the military or construction, make sure you’re wearing protection at all times. When you work in these conditions every day, it’s extremely easy to damage your hearing. While you might feel fine in the present, the damage is still being done. Protect your hearing, so you can enjoy it once you’re older.
If you enjoyed learning more about sensorineural hearing loss, you might find more useful information on the Signia Hearing blog. This blog catalogs a variety of hearing topics, from aural health to hearing aids. If you’d like to keep up with future updates and articles, the Signia newsletter can put you in the loop.