Many people find that it's difficult to hear speech clearly and it can sound like people are mumbling in conversations. They may need the television volume turned up and it can be much more difficult to hear conversations in noisy places. Some people with sensorineural hearing loss also experience tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears).
There are two main types of sensorineural hearing loss: congenital and acquired.
- Congenital hearing loss is present at birth and can be inherited genetically.
- Acquired hearing loss happens after birth and can be due to natural ageing, noise exposure, head or ear injury, a side effect of certain medications, infections such as measles, shingles, meningitis, Ménière's disease or a family history of hearing loss.
An audiology professional will first ask you questions about your medical and hearing history and ask if you have had any noise exposure or family history of hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is diagnosed during a hearing test. An audiology professional will perform a test called tympanometry to rule out issues with the eardrum and middle ear. An audiogram will test how well you hear sounds via insert earphones or headphones and compare this to test results using bone conduction to determine if your hearing loss is sensorineural. Speech testing will determine how clearly you understand speech at amplified levels and in background noise.
Treatment and prevention
Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss will depend on the extent of your hearing loss and whether one or both ears are affected.
An audiology professional will be able to recommend the best option for you, but the most common treatment is wearing hearing aids. If your hearing loss is more profound, the audiologist may refer you to a specialist to discuss the option of cochlear implants to help improve your hearing.
You can help prevent the extent of sensorineural hearing loss by wearing hearing protection when around loud noise and by limiting how long you listen to music via earphones or headphones and how loudly.