Google Rating
Based on 1276 reviews

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Whether you love your music at full volume, enjoy the roar of your car’s engine, or simply love to sit and listen to the sound of nature, we can all appreciate the sounds around us. But what if you couldn’t enjoy these sounds anymore? What if your ability to hear started to fail you? That is exactly what countless people experience with hearing loss. In fact, 15% of American adults (over 18) suffer from some level of hearing loss. Here at Hearing Group, we will explore what sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is and how it can be treated.

You might be asking yourself — what is sensorineural hearing loss? This form of hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss accounting for more than 90% of all hearing loss in adults, yet you probably don’t know much about it. Let’s take a closer look.

What is SNHL?

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when damage occurs to the auditory nerve or the inside of your ear. Your ear contains a small organ called the cochlea, which has thousands of tiny hairs called stereocilia. These tiny hairs convert the vibrations of sound waves into neural signals that eventually end up reaching your brain.

Exposure to louder sounds and noises (generally any sound above 85dB) can cause damage to these stereocilia and leave you with hearing damage. Sensorineural hearing loss can leave you with mild to complete hearing loss — depending on the percentage of stereocilia damaged.

SNHL is not a life-threatening condition, but hearing loss can increase your risk of suffering from a range of mental health issues and leave you struggling to communicate with those around you.

What Are Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms?

Depending on the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can gradually impact one or both of your ears. It might take a while to notice any hearing loss, as it can take between 30% to 50% of the stereocilia to become damaged before hearing damage becomes noticeable. It is a good idea to look out for the following symptoms if you are worried about your hearing health.

Are you experiencing any of the following:

  • Tinnitus
  • Muffled voices and sounds
  • Struggling to understand speech
  • Difficulty hearing high pitched sounds or even the speech of women and children
  • Difficulty hearing in crowded environments
  • Problems with balance or dizziness.

How Is it Caused?

Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused or developed throughout life or even be present at birth. Let’s take a closer look at SNHL what it can take for you to develop this form of hearing loss.


We all have those grandparents that may be a little hard of hearing. Presbycusis is just another term for age-related hearing loss. This form of hearing loss is incredibly common, with about half of all adults suffering from presbycusis by 75.

Loud Noises

Exposure to incredibly loud noises like explosions can leave you with a level of hearing damage. Few people tend to think about how consistent exposure to loud noises (anything above 85dB) can also cause SNHL. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you take precautions if you live or work in a noisy environment.

Congenital Hearing Loss

Congenital hearing loss is just another term for hearing loss that you are born with. It turns out that hearing loss is one of the most common birth abnormalities and affects one to three babies for every 1000 births.

Thanks to screening, most cases of hearing loss can be diagnosed straight away, and children can be fitted with cochlear implants or hearing aids to help with language development.


Many ototoxic medications and chemicals can cause hearing damage when taken consistently. These medications include certain chemotherapy drugs and anti-inflammatory medications.

Head Trauma

Hearing loss can also be caused by head trauma. Severe injuries like a blow to the head can damage your inner ear and leave you with sensorineural hearing loss.

Conductive and Mixed Hearing Loss

There are three main types of hearing loss that people commonly experience: sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss. However, it turns out that sensorineural hearing loss is by far the most common.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot pass through the outer or the middle part of the ear. The causes for conductive hearing loss include:

  • Ear infections
  • Benign tumors
  • Buildup of earwax
  • Obstructions by objects
  • Fluid buildup
  • Deformed outer or middle ear.

Mixed hearing loss is when people experience a mixture of SNHL and conductive hearing loss. It is considered mixed hearing loss when there are problems before and after the cochlea.

All three forms of hearing loss can present similar symptoms and are essential to diagnose as quickly as possible. The quicker you can get your hearing loss treated, the more likely you are to minimize long-lasting damage.

What Is Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) or “sudden deafness” can be a scary thing to experience, although generally a rare occurrence. SSHL usually only impacts one ear and is defined as a hearing loss of at least 30dB within three days. If left untreated, it can lead to deafness. Therefore, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any potential symptoms.

The following causes can bring on sudden deafness:

How to Test Your Hearing Loss

Getting regular hearing tests is vital to keep on top of your hearing health. Also, if you are concerned about your hearing health or believe that you might have experienced hearing damage, you should contact your local hearing specialist immediately. Next, your doctor or hearing specialists will carry out several tests to diagnose sensorineural hearing loss. These tests include:

Physical Examination

An examination will search for inflammation, foreign objects in your ear, ear wax, and damage to the eardrum. This will allow your hearing specialist to differentiate conductive hearing loss from SNHL.


During an audiogram test, you will be asked to wear headphones while sounds and words are played back to you in a range of different volumes and frequencies. This will help your hearing specialists determine any specific frequencies of hearing loss and diagnose your hearing loss or not, as the case may be.

How to Treat Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Unfortunately, there are no surgical procedures that can cure SNHL, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have several highly effective options that will allow you to enjoy your life and hear as normal.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are made up of two parts. The first part is the microphone that picks up the sounds and noises and a receiver located within the ear that sends electrical signals to your brain. These implants are a highly effective treatment for severe cases of SNHL.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are small electronic devices worn in or behind the ear that magnify the vibrations entering your ear. This essentially increases the volume and the clarity of any sounds around you, thus making them easier to hear. Here at Hearing Group, you can learn all about our hearing aids and help us find the right pair for you.

Book your free hearing test with Hearing Group and let us help find the perfect hearing solution for you.