Sensorineural hearing loss, what is it? Who is most affected and is there a possible cure?

Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss amongst the elderly and is aged-related. Age-related hearing loss is the loss of hearing gradually over the course of one’s lifespan and is one of the most common causes of hearing loss in the elderly.

This form of hearing loss is referred to as “Presbycusis” a common form of Sensorineural hearing loss. Presbycusis occurs due to the degeneration of the hair cells lining the inner ear and its main cause is the exposure to noisy environments over a period of time.

Due to the nature of this type of hearing loss, gradual over time, many people are not aware that they are experiencing some form of hearing loss until they reach their 40’s, and this will worsen with age. By the time people reach their 80’s most people would have experienced total hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss being one of the most common forms of hearing loss is unfortunately a permanent loss of hearing. It is also known as “nerve deafness” and is a result of a weaker sound signal being sent to the brain when the hair cells lining the cochlea are damaged. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Sensorineural hearing loss but with early intervention, the impact of Sensorineural hearing loss can be lessened.

In an article published by Health Dispatch in August, 2017 HCIA Chairman, Mr Ashley Wilson was quoted as saying “Interventions are needed to minimise the impact of hearing loss, and HCIA has recommended the introduction of a free hearing screening program for people aged 50 and over, which has the potential to prevent or delay hearing loss”.

Research currently undertaken by Janani Iyer, a Ph.D. candidate in the Harvard-MIT Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology program has led her to the Canadian Light Source (CLS) building on previous research undertaken. Iyer’s work focuses upon the cochlea, which is the inner ear (looks like a snail shell). The cochlea undertakes an important role in enabling the ear to receive sounds in the form of vibrations and converting them into nerve pulses that can then be received by the brain. The challenge in research is to understand the structure and function of the cochlea and Iyer’s currently creating a version of synchrotron imaging technology that can be used to view a person’s cochlea. This imaging process is still currently a work in progress but has so far yielded promising results. “Being able to see with cellular-level resolution what specifically is causing a patient to lose their hearing will certainly help us provide personalised diagnosis and therapy recommendations.” Iyer is quoted as stating.

Research such as that undertaken by Janani Iyer will help pave the way to understanding the inner workings of the ear and enable doctors and audiologists/audiometrists to understand the causes of hearing loss such as Sensorineural Hearing loss and therefore provide better individualised diagnosis and therapies.

If you think that you may be suffering from hearing loss, it is important that you seek the appropriate professional help and guidance. An appointment with your local Audiologist or Audiometrist to assess your level of hearing will allow peace of mind in beginning to develop the most appropriate solution for your hearing loss.