Published: Feb. 15, 2010
Updated: Feb. 15, 2010
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the brain pathways that process sound.
This type of hearing loss can be caused by disease processes (both genetic and non-genetic), trauma (including loud noise), aging, tumors, infection, ototoxic medications, and autoimmune ear disease, among other causes.
SNHL may occur with dizziness; when these symptoms occur together, a medical evaluation by one of our specialists is warranted.
Most SNHLs cannot be reversed, although they can be helped by a variety of technologies, including assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and -- in the case of severe hearing impairment -- cochlear implants.
Not every sudden loss is sensorineural, and hearing testing will need to be done to make this determination. All patients with sudden SNHL should undergo a medical evaluation.
Young children with congenital hearing impairment must be evaluated soon after birth by a physician who is experienced in the assessment of pediatric hearing loss and by a pediatric audiologist.
Infants must be fit with appropriate amplification and, for those with severe to profound losses, undergo cochlear implantation if deemed appropriate. It is necessary to initiate treatment as soon as possible after birth to enable normal speech and language development through early childhood.
Sudden SNHL is rare, but when it does occur, we consider this a medical emergency.
Many sudden losses will respond to steroid treatment, which can help the inflammatory changes associated with many losses. About 50 percent of people with sudden onset of significant hearing loss will improve with steroid treatment.
Steroid treatment is usually given by mouth at least initially, but may be injected into the middle ear (clinic procedure) if oral steroids are not beneficial, or if the patient cannot tolerate steroid treatment.
Cochlear implantation is an increasingly common procedure that can restore communication ability in those affected with severe and severe to profound hearing losses.
Our highly experienced implant audiologist can do appropriate testing to determine candidacy for cochlear implantation, and counsel patients and families about this highly successful technology. A medical evaluation will ensure that there is no medical contraindication or otherwise treatable cause of hearing loss.
Adults with severe and profound losses may be candidates for cochlear implantation if health is good, regardless of age.
We do cochlear implants in children from 12 months and adults into their 90’s. Implants are performed in either one or both ears, but are only performed for patients with bilateral hearing loss (not for hearing loss in one ear only).