Sensorineural Hearing Loss
What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (nerve deafness) is the most common type of hearing loss with conductive hearing loss being the second most common. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear and is caused by missing or damaged sensory cells (hair cells) located in the cochlea; or issues relating to the vestibulocochlear nerve which carries nerve impulses to the brain. Nerve deafness can cause mild, moderate, severe and profound hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be medically or surgically improved.
What are the symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
- Gradual loss of hearing
- Difficulty hearing foreground voices against noisy backgrounds
- Words can drop out of sentences
- Often asking people to repeat sentences
- Some sounds seem shrill or excessively loud
- Difficulty hearing people on phones
- Difficulty hearing some parts of speech
- Plugged feeling in the ear
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ear
What causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Genetics: There are strong correlations that gradual hearing loss has genetic origins. There are over 40 genes that have been identified as potential vectors for deafness.
Presbycusis: This condition, age-related hearing loss, is the primary cause of sensorineural hearing loss. The condition begins at 18 and progresses gradually through our lifespan. One in three people with have significant hearing loss by 65; by 75, the ratio is one in two.
Noise: Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by repetitive exposure to unsafe levels of noise. If you are wondering what an unsafe noise level is, imagine a noisy city street with honking horns which can reach decibel levels above 85.
Disease: Inflammatory, diabetes mellitus, acoustic neuroma, meningioma, Meniere’s disease, meningitis, AIDS, Mumps, measles and syphilis.
Ototoxic and Neurotoxic Drugs and Chemicals: Some medications can cause complete loss of hearing. For example, individuals with a rare mitochondrial mutation can be adversely affected by aminoglycosides such as gentamicin. Vicodin abuse and methotrexate used as a chemotherapy have been linked to rapid hearing loss. Dozens of chemicals have been linked to hearing loss. To learn more, visit this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ototoxicity
Head Trauma: Head injuries, concussions and fractures can all result in hearing loss.
Perinatal Conditions: Premature birth results in sensorineural hearing loss; children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome have a 64% chance of hearing loss.
What can happen if my Sensorineural Hearing Loss is not treated by a doctor?
• possible loss of hearing
• potential risk of presence of an unidentified tumor that can continue to grow
• may develop balance issues
• risk of serious infections
How is Sensorineural Hearing Loss diagnosed by your doctor?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and examine your ears with an otoscope to identify the health status of your ear canal and eardrum. He may ask you to cover one ear at a time to test how well you respond to words spoken at different sound levels.
Tuning Fork Test
He or she may perform a tuning fork test which is an excellent test for determining if your hearing loss is caused by conductive issues; or by problems with your auditory nerve system (sensorineural); or by a combination of both.
The tympanogram which is the output from the tympanometry test will provide the clinician with information on the functional levels of the middle ear and mobility of ear drum and can help determine if your hearing loss is conductive or nerve related.
To assess your current hearing status, an audiologist will conduct a series of hearing tests to chart hearing thresholds at a range of frequencies for each ear.
How do you treat Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
While sensorineural hearing loss has no treatment that can reverse it, SNHL caused by noise and toxic chemicals can be prevented. Wearing ear protection gear at noisy events like rock concerts or football games will help mitigate the impact of noise levels on your hearing. Avoiding chemicals that damage hearing is also advised.
Your hearing tests may indicate that your sensorineural hearing loss is only slightly impaired, requiring no treatment. Your doctor may suggest that you track your hearing health by having it tested on an annual basis.
There are no medications for curing SNHL, but researchers are experimenting with antioxidant vitamins, vasodilators, Coenzyme Q10 and ebselen to help reduce environmental noise damage to cochlear hairs.
If your hearing loss is severe enough, you and your doctor may consider a cochlear implant which is designed to provide sound signals to your brain via your vestibularcochlear nerve.
Stem Cell Therapy
There are several studies that are using stem cell and gene therapy to regenerate cochlear hair cells to improve sensorineural hearing loss. ENT & AA doctors are following these developments closely, but patients should be aware that the drug development and approval process can take years.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
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