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A to Z: Hearing Loss, Sensorineural

May also be called: SNHL; Nerve Deafness

Sensorineural (sen-suh-ree-NOOR-ul) hearing loss is hearing loss that involves malformation, dysfunction, or damage to the inner ear.

More to Know

The inner ear consists of two tiny organs called the cochlea and the semicircular canals. The snail-shaped cochlea acts as a sort of microphone, converting vibrations from the middle ear into nerve impulses that travel to the brain along the cochlear nerve, also known as the auditory nerve. Disorders of the cochlea or the auditory nerve can cause hearing loss that can be permanent. Disorders of the cochlea often are present at birth, but they also can be caused by infections, injuries, tumors, certain drugs, and overexposure to loud noises.

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

Treatment for sensorineural hearing loss can involve hearing aids or cochlear implants. In some cases, people with severe sensorineural hearing loss can benefit from learning skills like sign language and lip reading.

Keep in Mind

Not every case of sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. Some people may eventually regain much of their hearing. For those who don't, hearing aids, treatment, speech and language therapy, and educational programs can allow them to lead normal and productive lives.

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

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