The inner part of the ear contains tiny hair cells (nerve endings), which 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 can be present at birth (congenital), most often due to:
What to expect at your health care provider's office
Treatment is focused on improving your hearing. The following may be helpful:
Telephone amplifiers and other assistive devices
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.
For information on treating age-related hearing loss, see: Presbycusis
Hildebrand MS, Husein M, Smith RJH. Genetic sensorineural hearing loss. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 147.
Arts HA. Sensorineural hearing loss in adults. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 149.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. NIH Pub. No. 97-4233. Updated: October 2008.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies; University of Washington School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.