How is sensorineural hearing loss caused and what that means for you.
In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss, SNHL, cannot be medically or surgically corrected. However, it can be treated and helped with hearing aids. SNHL can be caused by injury, inflammation or ageing of the inner ear, auditory nerve or brain. Other causes include trauma, noise disturbance, idiopathic sudden hearing loss, Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuroma tumours, an autoimmune disease in the inner ear and Lyme disease.
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What sounds do we hear?
Everything generates sound when it moves. Even if this sound is hardly perceptible or unnoticeable to the human ear, it still makes a sound.
This happens because when an object moves or vibrates, the air particles move around it. The particles around it can be water or gas or even solids such as earth or metal, but mostly it is air.
As the particles move around the vibrating object, they, in turn, move around it, creating a ‘wave’ of sound that transports the vibration from the source to the ear. At this point, the brain interprets it as a specific sound.
Hearing aids can improve hearing significantly.
The human ear is a susceptible instrument that allows incoming sound waves to be translated into a format that your brain can recognise and understand.
These vibrations are then captured by the pinna or outer section of your ear.
After the sound has been captured, it is moved into the ear’s inner part, which is dedicated to hearing.
What is sudden sensorineural hearing loss?
A pencil gliding on paper as he writes lyrics. The audience singing along to his songs. The sound of his girlfriend’s voice. All of these experiences are suddenly gone within a few hours for Ruben, the main character in the recently released film, “The Sound of Metal.”
In the movie, Ruben suffers what is perceived as a sudden hearing loss, turning his professional and personal life upside down. But what exactly is sudden sensorineural hearing loss?
This part of the ear perceives the sound waves themselves, and the changes in air pressure, translating into an electrical signal that it transmits to the brain. This also includes the specific direction of the sound and its spatial relationship to the hearing person.
As I have said, the ear is a sensitive instrument. It relies on several interacting parts to work correctly. When any one of these parts ceases to function as designed, it can result in loss of hearing.
Depending upon which section of the ear is damaged, the type of hearing loss that occurs will be determined.
Is there a cure for SNHL?
While some types of loss can be corrected by various medical procedures or devices such as hearing aids, some damage types cannot be restored.
The difficulty with SNHL is that it harms the inner or hearing part of the ear or the actual nerve pathways, which projects from the inner ear to the brain.
It may be that you have difficulty communicating in a social environment.
Both areas are far too intricate to be corrected with contemporary medical procedures. What exactly is this type of hearing loss, and how does it affect a person’s ability to hear sounds?
When sensorineural hearing loss happens, the ability to hear faint noises is drastically reduced.
Even if speech or sounds are loud enough to be heard, they can still pass as unclear, muffled or even distorted.
How is sensorineural hearing loss caused?
Several well-known causes of SNHL include certain types of diseases that have not been adequately treated. Drugs toxic to the hearing parts of the ears or specific neurological pathways, head injuries, ageing, birth defects, sudden and unexpected loud noises, or prolonged exposure to loud noise.
Most people who experience this type of hearing loss have damage to the hair cells in the cochlea, where the hair that helps to move the sound waves along the inner ear is irreparably damaged.
More unusual are those in which damage to the cranial nerve or auditory parts of the brain occurs.
Frequently the cause cannot be determined.
There are various degrees of injury that can influence the severeness of the sensorineural hearing loss.
If the damage is slight, muffled or distorted sounds may occur. Such as distinguishing a voice in a set of voices, listening to conversation when background noise or repetitive noises arise.
Those suffering from more severe cases can live in a kind of isolated state.
You hear things happening outside or around you. Nevertheless, it is impossible to distinguish between certain noises or to determine from which direction they come.
- Hearing can be lost quickly or slowly at any age for a variety of reasons.
- The most familiar cause of hearing loss is presbycusis, also known as age-related.
- The leading causes of SNHL are hereditary disorders, noise pollution and presbycusis.
- As you age, you may gradually lose your hearing, even if you have no illness or injury.
Worst of all are those who suffer a complete breakdown of the hearing process and can no longer hear anything.
Some of the conditions that can contribute to SNHL if experienced or left untreated include suppurative labyrinthitis, meningitis, mumps, measles and syphilis.
Medications that can lead to this kind of hearing loss include Aminoglycosides, Loop diuretics, Antimetabolites, and Salicylates’ overuse such as aspirin.
Is there a treatment for sensorineural hearing loss?
When it occurs from head traumas, it generally takes specific injuries to particular head areas. This can include a fracture of the temporal bone or an injury that would somehow affect the cranial nerve.
It is easier to see how loud noises can cause hearing loss. In particular, damage from prolonged exposure to sounds above 90 dB (or 4000 Hz) can occur over time as the normal safe human hearing range is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
Loss of hearing can impact people of all ages.
This does not mean that it is “safe” with noises below 90 dB, as the damage can build up over time. Regrettably, many inventions, which we simply see as part of life in Western civilisation, border on the dangerous level.
Sounds of aeroplanes, lawnmowers, large trucks, trains, and some construction machinery. Even most big rock bands can be considered dangerous, especially if you are exposed to them over a long period or at any frequency.
What is the best SNHL treatment?
SNHL is currently treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants that work with a person’s remaining hearing to amplify sounds.
There is also cause for concern with iPods and MP3 players that use earbuds. These amplify loud music into the inner ear with no filtration or air friction to help take some edge off.
Although there are many different hearing loss types, SNHL is essentially untreatable by well-known medical procedures or devices. It is proving to be a problem that most people have to live with.