Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines sensorineural hearing loss as a form of hearing loss in which sound is conducted through the external and middle ear in a normal way but a defect in the inner ear results in its distortion, making discrimination difficult. Amplification of the sound with hearing aids can now help people with sensorineural hearing loss.
A multitude of disorders in this system (such as disease, infection, trauma, noise exposure, tumors and circulatory breakdown) can cause a reduction in hearing acuity and, therefore, a sensorineural hearing loss. These can be diagnosed by a local hearing clinician.
The inner ear is often called a “labyrinth” due to its similarity to an intricately winding cave. Composed of thousands of moving parts, it is responsible for sending balance and hearing information to the brain. It’s also interesting that its size is comparable to that of a small pea! The semicircular canals (three bony, fluid-filled loops in the internal ear opening to the cochlea) send balance and equilibrium data, while the cochlea (the snail-shaped bone labyrinth) sends hearing data to the brain. The origins of a sensorineural hearing loss lie within these parts.
Within the cochlea there are inner and outer hair cells that represent specific frequencies we can hear as human beings. Damage to these hair cells results in many different configurations of sensorineural hearing loss on an audiogram.
Thanks to tremendous advances in hearing aid technology over the last 10 years, amplification can be digitally programmed to accommodate the varying shapes and severity of a hearing loss. This now can occur wirelessly through computer, streaming directly into the hearing aids as the patient is fit with amplification. The speech and frequency spectrum can be effectively divided into more than 24 regions, successfully correcting for specific sensorineural hearing losses.