Sensorineural Deafness – Symptoms and Causes

hearing-1Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) or sensorineural deafness is a condition caused when the inner ear or the vestibulocochlear nerve fails to transmit strong or accurate signals to the brain. The inner ear contains tiny hair cells whose function is to convert the sound into electric signals and send it towards the brain. The failure to do so leads to SNHL. This hearing defect could be severe, moderate or mild, depending on a lot of factors. In almost all cases, the person diagnosed with hearing impairment is fitted with hearing aids or devices as shown in the picture below.

There are two main causes of sensorineural deafness: congenital sensorineural deafness and acquired sensorineural deafness.

Congenital sensorineural hearing loss is caused due to various reasons such as congenital rubella syndrome, lack of cochlea development, chromosomal syndromes (rare) and congenital cholesteatoma. Otosclerosis is also a cause, which is actually a hereditary disorder in which a bone grows around the middle ear, barring it to vibrate due to sound stimulation.

Acquired sensorineural hearing loss is caused to various factors. One of them is inflammatory problems such as measles leading to auditory nerve damage, meningitis, mumps, Muckle-Wells syndrome and transmitted syphilis infecting children in fetuses. Secondly, the use of ototoxic drugs like loop diuretics, antimetabolites, salicylates and aminoglycosides can lead of sensorineural deafness in future. The formation of tumors and Meniere’s disease could lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

hearing_impairedOther acquired sensorineural hearing loss causes include temporal bone fracture, prolonged exposure to loud noises (above 90 decibels), continual loss of high tones perception (affects the elderly more), cerebellopontine angle tumor, inner ear vascular ischemia and perilymph fistula.

Conditions like AIDS, HIV, ARC, premature birth, fetal alcohol syndrome and Chlamydia often lead to sensorineural deafness.

Genes do play a prominent role in SNHL. Till now, researchers have identified more than 40 genes which are responsible for causing deafness, along with 300 hearing loss syndromes with causative genes. These genes can be either dominant or recessive. Families with dominant SNHL genes will keep on passing the problem in every generation. But, SNHL condition for families with recessive SNHL genes will not be always apparent.

Symptoms Pointing towards Sensorineural Deafness

Some prominent symptoms pointing towards sensorineural deafness are given below.

  1. The inability to follow conversation when two or more people are talking. The sound seems very feeble or garbled.
  2. It becomes difficult to hear properly in noise areas and some sounds seem too much amplified making the 1005753_jpear1person uncomfortable.
  3. High pitched sounds like ‘th’ or ‘s’ becomes difficult to distinguish, seeming slurred or mumbled.
  4. There is difficulty in listening to what one person is speaking when there is a lot of background noise.
  5. Listening and understanding men’s voice is simpler than women’s voice.
  6. If the cause of sensorineural deafness is tinnitus, there is a constant buzzing or ringing sound in the ear.
  7. If the cause of sensorineural deafness is acoustic neuroma and Meniere’s disease, there is a feeling of being tizzy or off balance.


These were the symptoms and causes of sensorineural deafness. If you or anyone you know seems to suffer from any of the symptoms, get checked immediately and obtain the most efficient and stylish hearing aids.