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Sensorineural hearing loss:  this type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear.  This is also referred to as “nerve loss,” and can occur in adults and children.

Causes:

  • Loud noise exposure
  • Aging (presbycusis)
  • Family history (genetics)
  • Inner ear infection
  • Trauma
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
  • Inner ear malformation
  • Meniere’s Disease:  an imbalance of specialized fluid of the inner ear that causes dizziness, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Tumors

Diagnosis:

The diagnosis of this type of hearing loss is made after conducting a thorough history and physical examination.  The outer and middle ear appears normal on physical examination.  A hearing test (audiogram) will help confirm both the presence and amount of sensorineural hearing loss.

Treatment:

  • Traditional Hearing Aids
    Currently, the only form of non-surgical treatment is hearing aidsCochlear implants are reserved for specific candidates that have complete or near complete hearing loss in both ears.
  • Bone Anchored Hearing Aids
    These hearing aids have 2 parts.  One small metal post is gently secured to the bone of the skull while the patient is under general anesthesia.  The second component is the electronic portion of the unit that simply snaps into place to enhance hearing.  It can only be used in patients that have 1 sided hearing loss.
  • Treat the underlying disease process
    Specific treatment depends on the cause of the sensorineural hearing loss.  If the hearing loss is caused by a systemic autoimmune disease, then treatment of the disease process may help improve hearing.  Most causes of sensorineural hearing loss can’t be corrected with medicine or surgery.
  • Buzzing or ringing (tinnitus) usually accompanies sensorineural hearing loss and occurs because damaged inner ear cells produce abnormal signals to the brain.  Tinnitus is most obvious in quiet settings when no background noise is present.  Currently, there is no FDA approved surgical or medical treatment for tinnitus.
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