What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss? – Ear Problems


– What is sensorineural hearing loss? Well in this video I’m
gonna teach you what it is and what your treatment
options are, coming up. (upbeat music) Hi guys, Cliff Olson, Doctor of Audiology and Founder of Applied Hearing
Solutions in Anthem, Arizona, and on this channel I cover a bunch of hearing related
information to help make you a better informed consumer,
so if you’re into that, consider hitting the subscribe button. Now there are only three
types of hearing loss, but the most common one is sensorineural, and it’s often abbreviated SNHL. But what happens when you have
sensorineural hearing loss and what do you do about it? Well let’s jump right in. First you have to understand how we hear. Now the hearing system can be broken down into three distinct sections: the outer ear; the middle
ear; and the inner ear. The outer ear consists of your auricle, your ear canal, all the
way down to your ear drum. The middle ear consists of that ear drum, through the ossicles,
or the bones of hearing, and also your Eustachian
tube and middle ear space. The inner ear encompasses the cochlea, which is also called your hearing organ. A sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to either the cochlea or the structures inside of the cochlea, or the auditory nerve that goes from the cochlea up to your brain. Now some common causes
can be either head trauma, or to toxic chemical exposure, a tumor on your auditory nerve, other genetic factors that you might have, or noise exposure, and most commonly, age related hearing loss. A typical hearing test can easily identify if you have a sensorineural hearing loss as opposed to a conductive hearing loss or a mixed hearing loss. Earlier I mentioned several causes of sensorineural hearing loss, but the most common causes
are noise exposure, and age. And when you have noise
exposed hearing loss or age related hearing loss, typically what happens is
that the outer hair cells in the high frequency range end up dying. What this causes is this
lack of perceived clarity when people are talking to you, and that’s because high frequencies encompass clarity in speech, and low frequencies
encompass volume in speech. So this is typical for someone who has the age related hearing loss or a noise exposure related hearing loss, to come in and say, Well I feel like I can hear fine, but people are just mumbling, or I just can’t understand
what they’re saying. Another common complaint that I hear when someone has a noise
exposure related hearing loss or age related hearing loss, is that when they go
into a noisy background, that noise just overshadows everything. And that’s because if you have good low frequency hearing still, you’ll have a phenomenon that’s called the upward spread of masking, which means you hear the
background noise really good, but it drowns out all of those
high frequency components and takes away all of your clarity, so you really can’t understand
speech in those situations. So now that you know what causes
sensorineural hearing loss, how do you treat it? Well treatment will depend
on where the damage occurs, either in the cochlea or
along that auditory nerve, so if you have outer hair cell death inside of the cochlea,
the outer hair cells are your ears’ natural amplifiers, so when sound comes in through your ear, those outer hair cells make that basilar membrane vibrate more, which sends a more powerful
signal up to your brain, but when those outer hair cells die, your ear cannot naturally amplify sound so it requires the use of a hearing aid. Now it’s important to understand that a hearing aid only
works in this situation when the hearing aid is fit
and programmed properly, using real ear verification. Now if you have excessive
inner hair cell death, a hearing aid isn’t gonna provide you a massive amount of benefit. Hearing aids are really only good when it comes to outer hair cells. So when inner hair cells end up dying beyond a rate of which
a hearing aid can help, then you start becoming a
candidate for a cochlear implant, and what happens with the cochlear implant is that you bypass the cochlea entirely and you stimulate the
auditory nerve electrically. Now if you have an acoustic neuroma, which means a tumor growing
on your auditory nerve, you could potentially get
benefit from hearing aids if that tumor is small and isn’t growing, but if that tumor has to be removed you’ll be left with no hearing on the side that you had the tumor on. When that happens, you become a candidate for either a cross
device, which sends sound from your bad ear, or that
ear that no longer hears, and reroutes it to your better ear, so your better ear can use the sound from that side of your head. The other option is using a
bone anchored hearing device that is actually implanted
on the back of your skull, vibrates your skull, and helps your ear on
the opposite side hear. In some extreme cases where
both auditory nerves have tumors and they both have to be removed, you actually could
potentially be a candidate for an auditory brain stem implant, which, just like the name suggests, is an implant right on your brain stem which will then trigger
your brain to hear. Over 90% of hearing losses
are sensorineural in nature, and a large portion of
those require hearing aids as the main treatment option. That being said, it’s
impossible to know exactly which treatment option is right for you unless you have your
hearing evaluated properly by an audiologist. If you feel like you’re
experiencing hearing loss, your best option is to
schedule an appointment with an audiologist, so they can find out exactly what type of
hearing loss you have. That’s it for this video,
if you have any questions leave them in the comments section below. If you liked the video, go
ahead and give it a thumbs up, and if you wanna see more
videos just like this one, go ahead and hit the subscribe button. I’ll see you next time. (upbeat music)

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