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A to Z: Hearing Loss, Neural

May also be called: Sensorineural Hearing Loss; SNHL; Nerve Deafness; Nerve-Related Hearing Loss

Neural (NOOR-ul) hearing loss is hearing loss caused by a missing or damaged auditory nerve.

More to Know

The inner ear receives vibrations from the middle ear and converts them into nerve impulses that travel to the brain along the auditory nerve, also known as the cochlear nerve. A disorder or damage that affects the auditory nerve can interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses to the brain and cause hearing loss that is usually permanent.

Disorders of the auditory nerve are sometimes present at birth, but they can also be caused by illnesses, infections, head injuries, certain drugs, too much exposure to loud noises, and tumors, such as an acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor that can form on the auditory nerve).

The degree of neural hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Sometimes the loss is progressive (hearing gradually becomes poorer) and sometimes unilateral (one ear only). Symptoms may also include ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus).

Hearing aids usually don't help with neural hearing loss since the auditory nerve has trouble transmitting sounds to the brain. In some cases, people with severe neural hearing loss can benefit from learning skills like sign language and lip reading.

Keep in Mind

Not every case of neural hearing loss is permanent. If treatment is started early enough, some people eventually regain much of their hearing. For those who don't, speech and language therapy and educational programs can allow them to lead normal, productive lives.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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