Sensorineural deafnessNerve deafness; Hearing loss - sensorineural; Acquired hearing loss; SNHL; Noise-induced hearing loss; NIHL; Presbycusis
Sensorineural deafness is a type of hearing loss. It occurs from damage to the inner ear, the nerve that runs from the ear to the brain (auditory nerve), or the brain.
Symptoms may include:
- Some sounds seem overly loud in one ear.
- You have problems following conversations when two or more people are talking.
- You have problems hearing in noisy areas.
- It is easier to hear men's voices than women's voices.
- It is hard to tell high-pitched sounds (such as "s" or "th") from one another.
- Other people's voices sound mumbled or slurred.
- You have problems hearing when there is background noise.
Other symptoms include:
- Feeling of being off-balance or dizzy (more common with Meniere disease and acoustic neuromas)
Ménière disease is an inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing.
- Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears (tinnitus)
The inner part of the ear contains tiny hair cells (nerve endings), that change sounds into electric signals. The nerves then carry these signals to the brain.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is caused by damage to these special cells, or to the nerve fibers in the inner ear. Sometimes, the hearing loss is caused by damage to the nerve that carries the signals to the brain.
Sensorineural deafness that is present at birth (congenital) is most often due to:
- Genetic syndromes
- Infections that the mother passes to her baby in the womb (toxoplasmosis, rubella, herpes)
Congenital toxoplasmosis is a group of symptoms that occur when an unborn baby (fetus) is infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
Congenital rubella is a condition that occurs in an infant whose mother is infected with the virus that causes German measles. Congenital means the ...
Sensorineural hearing loss may develop in children or adults later in life (acquired) as a result of:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Disease of the blood vessels
- Immune disease
- Infections, such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. This covering is called the meninges.
Mumps is a contagious disease that leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands. The salivary glands produce saliva, a liquid that moistens food...
Scarlet fever is caused by an infection with bacteria called A streptococcus. This is the same bacteria that cause strep throat.
- Loud noises or sounds, or loud sounds that last for a long time
- Meniere disease
- Tumor, such as acoustic neuroma
- Use of certain medicines
- Working around loud noises every day
In some cases, the cause is unknown.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The goal of treatment is to improve your hearing. The following may be helpful:
- Hearing aids
- Telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices
- Safety and alert systems for your home
- Sign language (for those with severe hearing loss)
- Speech reading (such as lip reading and using visual cues to aid communication)
A cochlear implant may be recommended for certain people with very severe hearing loss. Surgery is done to place the implant. The implant makes sounds seem louder, but does not restore normal hearing.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that helps people hear. It can be used for people who are deaf or very hard of hearing. A cochlear ...
Living with hearing loss
If you are living with hearing loss, you know that it takes extra effort to communicate with others. There are techniques you can learn to improve co...
Talking to someone with hearing loss
It may be hard for a person with hearing loss to understand a conversation with another person. Being in a group conversation can be even harder. T...
Arts HA. Sensorineural hearing loss in adults. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 150.
Eggermont JJ. Types of hearing loss. In: Eggermont JJ, ed. Hearing Loss. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier Academic Press; 2017:chap 5.
Lonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 152.
National Foundation for the Deaf website. Helpful resources. www.nfd.org.nz/helpfulresources. Accessed October 23, 2018.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Noise-induced hearing loss. NIH Pub. No. 14-4233. www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss. Updated February 7, 2017. Accessed September 12, 2018.
Shibata SB, Shearer AE, Smith RJH. Genetic sensorineural hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 148.
Ear anatomy - illustration
The ear consists of external, middle, and inner structures. The eardrum and the 3 tiny bones conduct sound from the eardrum to the cochlea.
Review Date: 5/17/2018
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 10/23/2018.