Much of your hearing is controlled by miniature nerve endings in your inner ear. However, these nerve endings can be damaged, as can other structures in your inner ear, resulting in a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss.

An individual who is affected by sensorineural deafness is not necessarily completely deaf. Actually, in many cases only certain sounds become difficult to hear. Some sounds can seem too loud, while others may seem a lot less distinctive. Noisy conditions can make it difficult for you to single out speech patterns. The person may have difficulty when attempting to follow a conversation with more than one person speaking and may find that women’s voices are harder to understand than men’s. Difficulties in hearing aren’t the only manifestation of sensorineural hearing loss: ringing in the ears and dizziness can also arise.

There is no single cause of sensorineural deafness that applies to all individuals. Sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth for some people. The hearing loss could have an underlying genetic cause. It can also come about from particular infections which can be passed from mother to child.

The reasons for sensorineural hearing loss later in life are much more varied. Exposure to an extremely loud noise – also called acoustic trauma – is one possible reason. Consistent exposure to lower level noise, such as working with noisy equipment or listening to loud music, can also lead to inner ear damage.

Viral infections can cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss. These infections include meningitis, measles and mumps. Equally problematic is Meniere’s Disease, which can lead to fluctuating hearing loss as well as tinnitus and vertigo. Corticosteroids may prove helpful in these two cases.

Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by tumors, as well as head trauma and abrupt changes in air pressure. A hereditary disorder known as otosclerosis can cause a bony growth to form around an important bone in the middle ear, leading to sensorineural hearing loss.

While sensorineural hearing loss can have a profoundly negative effect on your quality of life, there are treatments available.