Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Long Word for Something You’re Likely Familiar With
If you know a friend or family member with hearing loss, you’ve probably already encountered someone dealing with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). That’s because it’s the most common type of hearing loss, affecting as many as 9 out of 10 hearing loss sufferers.
If someone is experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, it means they’re suffering from one of the following:
- Damage to their tiny inner ear hair cells (stereocilia)
- Damage to the nerve pathways between their brain and ear
Sensorineural hearing loss most commonly affects both ears and it’s permanent. It can be moderate, severe, or profound.
Even if someone is only experiencing moderate SNHL, the effects may still be deeply felt by them. For many people with sensorineural hearing loss, even activities we take for granted like having a conversation or hanging out with a group of friends can be a challenge.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be broadly described as damage within the inner ear. It is distinct from conductive hearing loss, which can be broadly described as the prevention of sound entering the inner ear.
What Causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss can be acquired or congenital.
Congenital sensorineural hearing loss is caused primarily by complications during pregnancy, birth, or genetic factors. It’s a serious matter because it also leads to delayed language development in children.
Acquired sensorineural hearing loss is hearing loss that has developed after someone was born, more commonly in later life. It is much more common than congenital SNHL.
To put it plainly, acquired sensorineural hearing loss is the technical term for what probably comes to mind if you mention hearing loss to the average person.
It can be caused by, among other things:
- Aging: one of the most common causes of SNHL.
- Noise: another very common cause. This can happen due to any loud noise source, and it’s preventable but not reversible!
- Trauma: a blow to the head or having been near an extremely loud noise such as an explosion can lead to issues with your hearing. Many veterans struggle with this issue.
- Tumors: abnormal skin growth in the ear can cause problems.
- Disease, infection, or medication
What Is It Like to Experience Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
When you think of hearing loss symptoms, you most likely think of things sounding quiet, perhaps fuzzy, or unclear. This is certainly a common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss.
What you might not realize is that for those with sensorineural hearing loss, it’s not just quiet environments that are troublesome. Paradoxically even louder environments such as concerts or movie theatres can become uncomfortably loud.
The most impactful hearing loss symptom is difficulty hearing speech, particularly higher-pitched voices or while in the presence of background noise - something that many describe as exhausting.
It Doesn’t Usually Happen Quickly
The onset of SNHL is generally a slow process. However, in rare situations, some people develop deafness in one or both ears within 12 hours or less. This is known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
If someone experiences this, they should seek medical attention immediately. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss treatment should ideally be administered within 48 hours to have the best chance at success, so this is not something to be ignored!
Worried About Your Hearing but Not Sure?
Sensorineural hearing loss diagnosis is a process and will most likely begin with a doctor giving a simple physical exam. This exam would be used to rule out conductive hearing loss.
After the physical exam, they will likely perform a couple of tests immediately. These would be non-intrusive and involve you listening for sounds delivered with a tuning fork.
If the doctor then suspects an issue, they will likely recommend an audiometer test which would be performed by an audiologist.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treatment: Options
Treatment for SNHL can be through medication, surgery, or management.
Management is the most accessible treatment, and usually involves the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be specifically tailored to the user’s particular hearing needs to provide maximum benefit.
That said, the best treatment is, as is so often the case, prevention!
Pay attention people: you need to get into the habit of practicing safe listening practices. Young or old, this will be your number one defense against developing SNHL or making existing conditions worse. Right now, over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss.
Don’t include yourself in that statistic if you can avoid it!
Some simple tips include:
- Use headphones at 60% volume or below.
- Use appropriate safety equipment if you must be around loud machinery or very loud sounds of any kind.
An Accessible, Affordable Way to Tackle Hearing Loss
If you’ve ever known a friend or relative experiencing hearing loss, odds are you’ve already noticed that people can be unwilling to seek out treatment. Many people feel ashamed of hearing loss, whether it’s simply due to the slings and arrows of age, sickness, unfortunate circumstances, or any other reason.
To make things worse, fitting for traditional hearing aids can be an arduous process with multiple visits to a hearing clinic - and that’s on top of the diagnosis.
Some people also feel there is a stigma around wearing “obvious” looking hearing aids.
The pandemic has also been an aggravating factor to many hearing loss sufferers, with masks taking away the lifeline of lip-reading that many have been accustomed to. It has also made it harder for people willing to seek treatment to be able to go through the necessary in-face hearing clinic appointments.
Here at Audientes, our goal since our inception has been to make high-quality, affordable, self-fitting hearing aids available to the millions of people around the world who suffer from disabling hearing loss, in the most convenient way possible.
Audientes’ hearing aids can provide you with the treatment you need, without the high barriers to entry - both time and cost - associated with a traditional hearing aid.
You’ll be able to perform a personal hearing test without leaving the house. And with or without the companion app, you’ll be able to adjust and fine-tune how you hear things, so it can be tailored to your needs easily.
What’s more, our hearing aid looks like an elegant pair of headphones or a Bluetooth headset. Nobody will know that you’re using a hearing aid if you don’t want them to.
Our experts are committed to providing best-in-class hearing aids, without many of the usual downsides and costs, that can be tailored to your specific needs from the comfort of your own home.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Outlook
Sensorineural hearing loss may be a difficult condition. But there are many ways you can manage it and live a normal healthy life. With our smart, self-fitting hearing aids you’ll be back to hanging out with friends or family, whispering secret conversations, and feeling connected with the world around you.
Feel free to contact us to find out more.