doctor checking a patients ear for sensorineural hearing loss

Simple Guide to Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

How hearing works in the ear.

Before we get into what sensorineural hearing loss is, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how hearing works. Our hearing works by transmitting sound waves from our environment to our brain. These sound waves travel from our outer ear to our middle ear, then from the inner ear to our brain.

The cochlea is a spiral shaped organ in the inner ear. It contains auditory cells with tiny hair bundles known as stereocilia. These auditory cells convert sound wave vibrations into neural signals that get sent to the brain so that they can be interpreted as meaningful sound. 

This auditory process is very complex and any damage to this system can cause various types of hearing loss.

What is sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. Problems with the auditory nerve and pathways from your inner ear to your brain can also cause SNHL. The auditory cells and pathways can become damaged for a variety of reasons and cause SNHL. As these auditory cells get damaged, they can become desensitized and require louder or more consistent stimulation before they can convert the sound waves into neural signals that get sent to the brain.

It can can occur in one ear or both ears depending on the root cause. You may not easily recognize your symptoms if your sensorineural hearing loss occurs gradually. A hearing test with a hearing health professional can help identify areas of hearing loss, however, most hearing tests do not cover the entire sound frequency spectrum that can be recognized by humans.

It’s the most common type of hearing loss and accounts for about 90% of the world’s hearing loss. With SNHL, soft sounds can become hard to hear and loud sounds can be muffled and unclear.


What causes sensorineural hearing loss?

There are a multitude of causes for SNHL. The most common cause of hearing loss is noise induced. Everyday activities like; listening to music with headphones at a high volume, going to loud concerts, sporting events, bars, restaurants and movie theatres can all cause sensorineural hearing loss. Power tools, lawnmowers, motorcycles, firearms, emergency sirens and many other common sounds are also guilty of causing sensorineural hearing loss. However, exposure to loud noises are not the only causes of SNHL…


Sensorineural hearing loss symptoms.

  • Voices and sounds are muffled
  • Trouble hearing when two or more people are talking
  • Background noise makes hearing hearing difficult
  • Difficulty hearing women and children’s voices
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness and balance issues

How can we prevent sensorineural hearing loss?

Hearing loss is almost inevitable. Through the course of our lives, we are exposed to damaging levels of noise, get infections, diseases and other factors that contribute to SNHL.

Wearing earplugs or acoustic filters at concerts, loud work environments and other situations can help reduce noise exposure and filter unwanted noise. There are earplugs on the market that can block unwanted noise without altering the sound experience and your ability to communicate. Keeping the volume below 60% on your devices and listening for no longer than 60 minutes can also help prevent SNHL. Noise-cancelling headphones can also help you by blocking outside noise and allowing you to lower the volume on your device.

Remember to step outside or away to give your ears and hearing a much needed break when attending concerts, loud events or when you are in a loud environment.

We’ve included a list of a few simple practices that may help prevent this type of hearing loss.

  • Wear Earplugs
  • Wear Acoustic Noise Filters
  • Turn the volume down on devices
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones
  • Limit exposure and take regular breaks
  • Distance yourself from speakers and other loud sources
  • Get regular check-ups


What can we do to treat sensorineural hearing loss?

Surgery and medications are not often effective for sensorineural hearing loss. Currently, hearing aids are the most commonly recommended treatment for individuals with SNHL and individuals with severe hearing loss may be candidates for a cochlear implant.

Other, non medical solutions on the market aim to help individuals suffering. They include web and mobile application based platforms for speech perception, recognition, audio training and sound therapies hope to provide complementary solutions to provide relief and support. 

Be sure to have your hearing tested regularly with a hearing healthcare professional. Together, you can develop an individualized plan to prevent, protect and better manage your hearing health.

AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at