Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or hearing nerve is damaged or doesn’t work properly. A cochlear implant can help by bypassing the inner ear.

What you'll find on this page

Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss makes sounds not only softer, but also difficult to understand — especially when it’s noisy.

If you have sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, you may have difficulty understanding speech, even when it seems loud enough.

If your hearing loss is only in one ear, you may have difficulty locating sounds or hearing in background noise.

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Do you recognise any of these signs?

It's difficult to identify the symptoms specific only to sensorineural hearing loss.

However, if you experience any of these symptoms, then it's likely you have hearing loss — and most likely, sensorineural hearing loss.

Select every box that applies to you:

  • It's difficult to follow conversations involving more than two people.
  • It's difficult to follow conversations when there's background noise.
  • I have trouble understanding announcements in public.
  • It's difficult to understand phone conversations.
  • It's difficult to hear high-pitched sounds
  • I have ringing or buzzing in my ears.
  • Sounds seem unclear to me.
  • People sound like they're mumbling.

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Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

Congenital hearing loss

This type of hearing loss is present at birth and is the most common problem in new-born babies. It can be either inherited or caused by abnormal development in the foetal stages of life.

Acquired hearing loss

This type of hearing loss can be caused by many factors, such as:

  • trauma
  • ageing
  • genetics
  • adverse reactions to medication
  • noise exposure from machinery or firearms
  • Meniere’s disease
  • meningitis.
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Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss

Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss varies. It depends on the severity of your hearing loss and whether you’re affected in one ear or both ears.

Hearing loss in both ears

Hearing aids can help most people with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss in both ears.

For more severe levels of hearing loss, sometimes hearing aids just don’t help enough. This is because sensorineural hearing loss causes sounds to become distorted.

Amplifying sounds through hearing aids makes them sound louder, but not necessarily clearer. Even good quality hearing aids can sound distorted if the inner ear is severely damaged.

Cochlear implants may help

If you have severe to profound hearing loss and hearing aids are no longer working for you, you may want to learn more about cochlear implants.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted – so it bypasses the damaged inner part of the ear to stimulate the hearing nerve directly.

Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, cochlear implants convert sound waves to electrical impulses in a way that mimics your natural hearing.

How Cochlear implants work

  1. A sound processor worn behind the ear or on the body captures sound and turns it into digital code. The sound processor has a battery that powers the entire system.
  2. The sound processor transmits the digitally coded sound through the coil on the outside of your head to the implant.
  3. The implant converts the digitally coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed in the cochlea (the inner ear).
  4. The implant’s electrodes stimulate the cochlea’s hearing nerve, which then sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
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Hearing loss in one ear

If you have mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss in one ear then a conventional hearing aid is the most common treatment.

However, as hearing aids require some degree of useable hearing, they can’t help in the case of profound hearing loss.

Baha solutions may help

In profound losses, Baha® bone conduction implants can transmit sound through bone, from the damaged ear to the working inner ear on the other side. This makes it easier to understand speech in noisy situations.

If you have normal hearing or mild hearing loss in your good ear, a bone conduction implant may be a good option for you.

How Baha solutions work

One way to hear is when sound vibrations travel through bones in our head. This way of hearing is called bone conduction.

The vibrations bypass the eardrum and transmit sounds straight to the inner ear, which transforms the sounds into a message for our brain.

A bone conduction implant system can bypass damaged or blocked parts of the ear and deliver vibrations directly to the inner ear. The inner ear converts the vibrations to electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.

Bone conduction implants work by using the body’s natural ability to conduct sound. They are designed for people with single-sided hearing loss, conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss.

There are three parts to a bone conduction system:

  • a small titanium implant that is surgically inserted in the bone behind the ear
  • an abutment or a magnet that connects the implant to the sound processor
  • an external sound processor.

Together, these parts bypass the section of the ear that isn’t working, sending vibrations directly through the bone to the inner ear.

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"My Nucleus Cochlear Implants gave me back my hearing. They helped me participate in the show Survivor, which was an amazing experience. I would have never been able to go out there and play Survivor without them. It gave me that sense of 'I can do anything. If I can do this I can do anything"

-Nina P.-Nucleus® recipient

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Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.
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