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Much of your hearing is controlled by miniature nerve endings in your inner ear. When these nerve endings (or other parts of the inner ear) are damaged, the result is often sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss typically does not result in complete deafness. In fact, in many cases only certain sounds become difficult to hear. Some sounds can seem too loud, while others can seem a lot less distinctive. Discerning speech patterns becomes especially difficult, in particular when listening in a noisy environment. The person may have trouble when trying to follow a conversation with more than one person speaking and may notice that women’s voices are harder to follow than men’s. Additional symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss are feelings of dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

There is no single cause of sensorineural deafness that applies to all individuals. Sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth for some individuals. The disorder could have an underlying genetic cause. It can also come about from certain infections which can be passed from mother to child.

As a person grows older, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by a number of different issues. Contact with an extremely loud noise – also called acoustic trauma – is one possible reason. Similarly, long term exposure to loud noise (often experienced by construction workers and musicians) can cause inner ear damage.

Sensorineural hearing loss can come on suddenly, such as in the case of viral infections. Viruses such as measles, mumps and meningitis can all lead to this issue. Meniere’s Disease, a syndrome that causes hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus, can also lead to fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss. In both cases, corticosteroids may be able to provide relief.

Abrupt changes in air pressure and head trauma can cause sensorineural hearing loss, as can other physical issues such as tumors. Other physical reasons for sensorineural hearing loss include the hereditary disorder otosclerosis where a bony growth in the inner ear interferes with hearing.

There is no doubt that sensorineural hearing loss can drastically decrease your quality of life, but there are ways to deal with it.