With over 60,000 new cases reported per year in the US according to the Journal of Otolaryngology, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) the number of people affected increases significantly every year.
SNHL is caused by damage done to the inner parts of the ear.
While the root cause of the condition may be the same, the damage can come from a variety of sources. In this blog post, we’ll explore a few of these sources including aging, noise exposure, genetics, and more.
Let’s dive in.
Noise-induced Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is among the most common causes of hearing loss as it can be caused over time or in a single moment (e.g. listening to loud music over years versus being near an explosion).
How loud and how frequent the exposure is to dangerously loud noises will determine how quickly the sensorineural hearing loss can take hold.
The prevalence of NIHL is projected to be as high as 1 in 3 US adults with the CDC reporting that “17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.”
For more information on what levels of noise are dangerous to your ears, check out our blog post, Loud Noises: How Much Does it Take to Cause Hearing Loss?
As you’ve already read with regards to loud noises, the hair cells that transmit electrical signals to the brain are very sensitive.
As we age, these hair cells begin to die off, causing us to lose our ability to hear high frequencies.
This type of hearing loss usually starts at an average age of 50 years old. When fitted correctly, hearing aids can help with hearing these frequencies better and improve their overall quality of life.
Genetics can also play an important role in determining whether a person has sensorineural hearing loss. If both parents have sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), there is a 50% chance that each child will inherit the condition.
According to the CDC, hearing loss can be caused by genetics that can present in either a syndromic or non-syndromic way. Syndromic refers to whether or not another symptom is linked to their hearing loss. For instance, many people who become blind because of genetics also suffer some level of hearing loss.
The CDC reports that about 70% of all mutations causing hearing loss are non-syndromic, meaning the person does not have any other symptoms.
Medication can be needed to help treat various medical conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, and arthritis.
Some examples of medications approved for clinical use that are reported to be ototoxic include “aminoglycoside antibiotics, macrolide antibiotics, salicylates, chemotherapeutic agents such as cisplatin, loop diuretics, antimalarials.” In addition to the intended effects of these medications, they can also affect hearing as they can affect the delicate blood vessels of the inner ear.
If you are on any medications and are concerned that they will affect your hearing, you should talk to your physician about alternatives.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) There are a variety of potential causes for this kind of hearing loss but most involve damage in some capacity to the inner ear.
Usually, SSHL is caused by some underlying condition such as a virus, disease, stroke, or an autoimmune issue. Research reports that “sudden SNHL affects between 5-27 per 100,000 people each year”
Time is of the essence with SSHL.
You should seek medical attention immediately. Assuming the underlying cause is treated, most patients recover some if not all of their hearing.
While there are more potential causes of SNHL, we’ve talked about the ones that are most commonly reported.
If you suspect that you may have hearing loss, you should make an appointment with an audiologist right away.
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