Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is one of the most common types of hearing loss. It occurs due to damage of the hair cells in the cochlea (found in the inner ear) or to the nerve pathways which lead from the inner ear to the brain.
Damage to the cochlea naturally occurs as part of ageing, but other factors such as exposure to loud noise, illness, medication, genetics, head trauma or a deformity in the inner ear can also cause this type of hearing loss.
The principal sign of SNHL is a change in your ability to hear quiet sounds and an alteration in the quality of sound you can hear. For example, if you suffer from sensorineural hearing loss you may feel as if people mumble when they speak or feel as if you can’t understand what is being said. Other symptoms are similar to those of Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) and include difficulty hearing in loud areas or when there is background noise, voices seeming mumbled or slurred, some sounds appearing too loud and difficulty in hearing sounds that are low pitched.
Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss often depends on how it is thought to have been caused. If this type of hearing loss is sudden or has been caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise, being prescribed particular medication may reduce the inflammation of the structures found in the inner ear. This treatment can ease symptoms and cause sounds to become clearer.
However once the hair cells in cochlea become damaged, they can often remain that way, meaning that sensorineural hearing loss is often incurable.
This doesn't mean you have to struggle with the condition. A hearing aid is the most common method of managing SNHL and having one fitted can significantly improve your life by amplifying and improving the quality of your hearing. Being fitted with a hearing aid could mean that participating in conversations is no longer difficult, and all sounds are clear, with no distortions.
If you feel you have difficulties with your hearing, taking a hearing test can help determine your current level of hearing and a specialist can guide you through the next steps. Although SNHL is often incurable, a hearing aid can help you manage the condition and improve your level of hearing.