Sensorineural hearing loss

Inside our inner ears are tiny hairs (called cilia) that detect sound, and the cochlear nerve that transmits data to the brain. Over time, noise, disease and the natural process of aging all cause damage to these components and results in sensorineural hearing loss. 

Throughout our lives, we all gradually lose these vital hair cells. Learn more about what this means for your hearing and how to compensate for sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss

It most often occurs due to the natural process of aging, or frequent exposure to high levels of noise. Other causes include: 

  • Viral infections
  • Diseases and ear infections, such as otitis media and external otitis
  • Cancer treatments and other "ototoxic" medicines
  • Cardiovascular conditions and illnesses, such as stroke or a heart condition
  • Head trauma
  • Ménière's disease
Sensorineural hearing loss

Understanding "nerve deafness"

According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, sensorineural hearing loss (also known as nerve deafness) is the most common type of hearing loss occurring is 23% of our population over 65 years of age. Even though it is most prevalent in seniors, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) studies have shown that sensorineural hearing loss affects one in eight people over the age of 12 in the United States.

This disorder that occurs when inner ear nerve damage prevents sound information from reaching the brain is a leading cause of having difficulty hearing.

Individuals develop sensorineural loss either from an “acquired” loss or a "congenital" hearing loss. Acquired losses develop after birth; congenital (sometimes called inherited) hearing loss happens in the womb or during birth. Sensorineural deficiencies can vary in degree from mild to profound, and tend to worsen slowly over time, depending on the cause.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Feeling out of touch?

Have you experienced any of the following signs recently:

  • Difficulty following conversations involving more than two people

  • Trouble retaining oral information in public, such as at restaurants, stores or at work

  • Speaking on the phone is increasingly difficult

  • Difficulty understanding when people speak if there is background noise

  • Sounds seem unclear or people sound like they are mumbling

  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears. Tinnitus is common with this type of loss.


The team at HearingLife is happy to discuss your concerns and give you a professional opinion.

Sensorineural hearing loss

How to treat sensorineural hearing loss

It depends on a number of factors. In some cases, prescribed medication may ease symptoms and reduce inflammation in the inner ear so that sounds become clearer. In other cases where hearing loss is due to damaged hair cells, most people with sensorineural hearing loss will benefit from hearing aids. The best way to ensure the optimal treatment for you is to book a free hearing assessment* with our experts. Then we can determine the extent of your hearing loss and develop the best solution for you.

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Sensorineural hearing loss

Many people find that hearing aids work well and provide new opportunities to hear, for mild to moderate to severe cases of sensorineural hearing loss. Today's models hide invisibly inside the ear, or sit discreetly behind the ear.

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It can be. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including hearing loss. Over time, the government has clarified what types of disabilities or impairments warrant protection covered by the ADA. Formally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states, "Individuals with hearing impairments can perform successfully on the job and should not be denied opportunities because of stereotypical assumptions about hearing loss." However, classifying an impairment as a disability depends on the severity of the loss and the need for accommodations. Not all people with sensorineural hearing loss would need accommodations — especially if they are wearing hearing aids that help them listen on par with their peers, but an individual with hearing loss may need adjustments, technical support or other help. 

Some accommodations may include phones, software or electronics that integrate with hearing aids. They may also include providing sign language interpreters, allowing a hearing dog (if an establishment prohibits dogs) or work area adjustments in compliance with the ADA.

Hearing loss and your career

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