Sensorineural hearing loss was once known as "nerve deafness." But science now knows that usually the problem occurs not from a damaged hearing nerve but from a problem in the inner ear. Still, doctors often group the problems together, because of the connection between the hearing nerve and the inner ear, and the fact that the two must function in coordination with each other.

What Causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

A number of things can cause Sensorineural hearing loss, but there are two categories of ailments: acquired and congenial.

An acquired loss of hearing happens to a person sometime after they are born, and it has a number of different causes. These causes can include:

  • Trauma
  • Presbycusis (loss of hearing related to aging)
  • Noise exposure (from either firearms or machines)
  • Meniere's Disease
  • Meningitis

Ototoxic drugs, which are used as treatments for a number of serious medical conditions, can also cause an acquired loss of hearing. In rase cases, a tumor forming within the hearing nerve can cause a loss of hearing as well.

Congenial loss of hearing, on the other hand, happens at birth, and doctors often spot it after a baby is born. Two things can cause this type of loss: some abnormal fetal development or an inherited trait. In the past — before vaccines against disease were developed — both German Measles and Maternal Rubella also caused congenial loss of hearing.

What Are the Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Loss of hearing can occur in either one ear or both. When occurring in one ear, symptoms include difficulty in determining the location of a particular sound as well as difficulty in hearing when there is significant background noise. When loss of hearing occurs in both ears, symptoms include an inability to understand speech, regardless of its volume.

What Are the Treatments for Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Treatment for the loss of hearing depends on two factors: the severity of loss and whether the problem affects only one ear or two.

One-Ear Loss of Hearing

For those who only have mild or even severe loss of hearing in only one ear, usually the treatment consists of a conventional hearing aid. But if the loss of hearing is more profound, a Baha bone conduction implant can be an option. This option, which requires one functioning (or mildly impaired ear), allows sounds to transmit from the afflicted ear to the functioning one. An implant makes it easier for a person to understand speech in circumstances in which there is a lot of noise.

Two-Ear Loss of Hearing

For those who only have mild or moderate loss of hearing in both ears, hearing aids are usually sufficient. But for more severe loss of hearing, a cochlear implant can be an option. This is an electronic device that a surgeon implants in a person's head. It bypasses the nonfunctioning part of the ear and transmits sounds directly to the hearing nerve.