Hearing loss that originates from problems with the vestibulocochlear nerve, the inner ear, or the central processing areas of the brain is commonly referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. The great majority of persons suffering this type of hearing loss have abnormalities in the hair cells of the inner ear (more specifically, in the organ of Cori in the cochlea). These hair cell abnormalities can exist at birth or through damage over time.
A common cause of this type of hearing loss is prolonged exposure to very loud noise. For example, workers who are regularly exposed without ear protection to excessive industrial or mechanical noise are at risk as are individuals who listen to music on headphones at loud volume for an extended time. Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include abnormalities of the central auditory system in the brain. This cause is commonly hereditary in nature.
Hearing loss is most often treated with hearing aids. The aids, which come in a variety of styles, amplify sounds at preset frequencies to overcome a sensorineural hearing loss in that range. In cases of severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss, cochlear implants may be recommended. These implants, placed under the skin behind the ear, often can enable sufficient hearing for a better understanding of speech. The quality of sound is different from natural hearing, with less sound information being received and processed by the brain. Other treatments are in development. For example, hair cell regeneration using stem cell and gene therapy is in experimental phases, though solutions are still a ways off.
Millions of adults are affected by sensorineural hearing loss. The key to living a productive life with hearing loss is to get expert medical and clinical assistance as soon as you experience any loss. The earlier the treatment, the better the results over the long haul.