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What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss is the medical term for hearing loss that occurs due to damaged hair cells inside our ears. Without getting too technical, most of us learned in school that the inside of our ears contain special hair cells that vibrate and help send sound waves to the brain. The waves are then processed into things our brain understands as ‘sounds’ and we can then hear the determined voice of Winston Churchill, the sweet sad beauty of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and so much more. When the hair cells are damaged however, sensorineural hearing loss may occur. In some cases, the hair cells were abnormal at birth. They can also be damaged during someone’s lifetime — prolonged exposure to noise can damage the hair cells, a fact many who grew up on disco dance floors are just now beginning to discover. Viruses or illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss. Meningitis, mumps, and measles are all thought to contribute to auditory nerve damage and hearing loss. Thankfully, these diseases are rare in much of the world. Other rare autoimmune conditions have also been linked to sensorineural hearing loss, and inherited genetics can predispose someone to sensorineural hearing loss. Scientists have identified more than 40 genes that they determined directly contribute to different types of hearing loss, including sensorineural hearing loss. But let’s come back to noise for a moment. If you live in a city or near an airport or freeway, you could be exposed to up to 70 dB of noise on a regular basis. Music lovers enjoy their tunes at varying decibel levels, but most audio devices are easily capable of blasting out well over 100 dB – those who like to ‘pump it up’ could be unknowingly setting themselves up for future hearing loss. Another, even more rare way to develop sensorineural hearing loss is to suffer a massive physical trauma to the head near the ear. Such a trauma can cause damage that in many cases is not reversible. The good news is that most of us can act to reduce or prevent sensorineural hearing loss. Turning down the volume and avoiding ear trauma would offer a great deal of protection from sensorineural hearing loss, while treatment options are available for those who already experience the condition. We highly recommend that you take our FREE online hearing test to learn if you are showing symptoms of hearing loss. Or book an appointment with one of our friendly hearing health professionals for more information.
Ken LaFerle, Au.D.
Ken is Beltone's Director of Educational Services and has been "bleeding Beltone Blue" for the last 26 years. He has been working in the hearing industry for the last 31 years and thoroughly enjoys the hearing care field and is looking forward to sharing his thoughts and experiences on the blog. More about Ken

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