Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting millions of people worldwide. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing [1]. The majority of these cases are sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea) or the auditory nerve are damaged or not functioning correctly.

These hair cells are responsible for converting sound vibrations into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. When these hair cells or the nerve are damaged, the transmission of sound to the brain becomes impaired, leading to hearing loss.

Below we will explore several factors that can contribute to the development of sensorineural hearing loss, which would require a user to use sensorineural hearing aids:

  • Aging

Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is a common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. As we age, the hair cells in the cochlea and the auditory nerve can become damaged, leading to gradual hearing loss. The NIDCD estimates that about one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing [2].

  • Noise Exposure

Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as machinery, concerts, or firearms, can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, which increases the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Additionally, around 17% of adults aged 20 to 69 have indications in their hearing test that suggest noise-induced hearing loss [3].

  • Genetics

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to sensorineural hearing loss, inheriting genes that make them more susceptible to hair cell or nerve damage. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), approximately two to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears [4].

  • Infections

Certain viral or bacterial infections, such as meningitis or measles, can cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.

  • Head Trauma

Injuries to the head or skull can cause damage to the inner ear structures or the auditory nerve, leading to auditory nerve damage & sensorineural hearing loss.

  • Autoimmune Diseases

Conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the inner ear, affecting the hair cells and auditory nerve.

  • Ototoxic Medications

Some medications, such as certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can have toxic effects on the inner ear, leading to temporary or permanent hearing loss.

sensorineural hearing aids
Image Credit: nationalhearingtest.org/

Typical symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss can vary, depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Some common symptoms include [5]:

  • Difficulty hearing quiet or high-pitched sounds: Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss may struggle to hear soft sounds or high-frequency sounds, such as birdsong or children’s voices.
  • Difficulty understanding speech: Speech comprehension may become difficult, especially in noisy environments or when multiple people are talking at once.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss and can range from mild to severe.
  • Sensitivity to loud sounds: Some individuals with SNHL may experience increased sensitivity to loud noises, known as hyperacusis.
  • Difficulty hearing on the telephone: This can be a common issue, as the sound quality on telephone calls is often less than ideal.

Sensorineural hearing loss can impact either one or both ears, depending on the underlying cause, and the following types exist [7]:

  1. Bilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss affects both ears and may be the result of genetic factors, loud noise exposure, or illnesses such as measles, causing SNHL in both ears.
  2. Unilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss: In some cases, SNHL may only impact one ear due to causes such as an acoustic neuroma, Meniere’s disease, or a sudden loud noise affecting just one ear.
  3. Asymmetrical Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Asymmetrical SNHL is characterized by hearing loss in both ears, with one side experiencing more severe impairment than the other.

Sensorineural hearing loss can be diagnosed through a series of tests that evaluate the function of the inner ear and the auditory nerve. Here are some of the most common tests that are used to diagnose sensorineural hearing loss [7]:

  1. Pure-tone Audiometry: This test involves headphones listening to sounds at different frequencies and volumes. The results are plotted on an audiogram to show the degree and type of hearing loss.
  2. Speech Audiometry: This test evaluates a person’s ability to understand speech at different volumes and in different listening conditions.
  3. Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test: This test measures the electrical activity of the auditory nerve and brainstem in response to sounds.
  4. Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Test: This test measures the sounds produced by the inner ear in response to sounds.
  5. Vestibular-evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMP) Test: This test evaluates the function of the vestibular system in the inner ear, which is responsible for balance.
  6. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test may be done to check for abnormalities in the auditory nerve or other parts of the ear.

It should be noted that it is important to consult an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor to determine the appropriate testing for an individual’s specific case.

Can Hearing Aids Help Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Treatment options for sensorineural hearing loss depend on its severity and cause. Although sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, various interventions can help improve hearing and communication. Some common treatments include hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, bone-anchored hearing systems, speech therapy, and auditory rehabilitation. Hearing aids are one of the most common and widely used approaches to help people with sensorineural hearing loss. However, it is essential that a healthcare professional, like an audiologist or an otolaryngologist, determines the appropriate treatment based on the patient’s individual needs and circumstances.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Treatment

Treatment options for sensorineural hearing loss depend on its severity and cause. Although sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent, various interventions can help improve hearing and communication. Some common treatments include sensorineural hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, bone-anchored hearing systems, speech therapy, and auditory rehabilitation. Sensorineural hearing aids are one of the most common and widely used approaches to help people with sensorineural hearing loss. However, it is essential that a healthcare professional, like an audiologist or an otolaryngologist, determines the appropriate treatment based on the patient’s individual needs and circumstances.

Sensorineural hearing aids can help people suffering from sensorineural hearing loss; however, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all “best” option; since most hearing aids are designed to address this prevalent form of hearing loss [8]. For this reason, some people refer to them as “sensorineural hearing aids” or “hearing aids for nerve damage”.


Sensorineural Hearing Aids Features

Various sensorineural hearing aids offer distinct features, such as Bluetooth connectivity and diverse styles, and the ideal choice ultimately depends on individual preferences. To ensure the selection of the most effective sensorineural hearing aid, it’s crucial to consult with an audiologist who can evaluate your specific hearing requirements and provide personalized recommendations. 

As aforementioned, most hearing aids are designed to address sensorineural hearing loss. They offer several features that improve the user’s speech intelligibility and hearing comfort. Such features are: 

  1. Amplification: Hearing aids use microphones to pick up sounds, which are amplified and delivered to the ear. This amplification makes sounds louder and clearer, allowing the wearer to distinguish speech sounds better.
  2. Smart signal enhancement algorithms: Many modern hearing aids use digital signal processing (DSP) technology to analyze incoming sound signals and modify them to improve speech clarity. DSP can reduce background noise, enhance speech sounds, and selectively amplify certain frequencies to improve speech intelligibility.
  3. Directional microphones: Most hearing aids use directional microphones that can focus on sounds coming from a specific direction, such as the person speaking to the wearer. This can help to reduce background noise and improve speech intelligibility.
  4. Noise reduction: Many hearing aids have noise reduction features that can help to suppress background noise, making it easier to hear speech.
  5. Feedback management: Hearing aids use advanced algorithms to detect and eliminate feedback, which can cause whistling or other unpleasant sounds that can interfere with speech intelligibility.

Best Hearing Aid Brands For Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Here we enlist some of the top hearing aid brands and their relevant models that appeared in the market this year [9]. These are:

  • Jabra Enhance
  • Lexie, Eargo
  • Audicus
  • Audien Atom Pro
  • Phonak Audéo Lumity
  • MDHearing
  • Signia Silk X
  • Widex Moment
  • ReSound Omnia
  • Starkey Evolv AI
  • Phonak Naída Paradise P-UP
  • Oticon Own

The list includes different styles of sensorineural hearing aids, such as receiver-in-canal, completely-in-canal, behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and invisible-in-canal. The batteries for the hearing aids vary between rechargeable and disposable options. Some models come with Bluetooth capabilities, phone app or remote support adjustments, and financing options. The warranty periods for these hearing aids range from 1 to 3 years.

Sensorineural Hearing Aids Takeaway

In conclusion, sensorineural hearing loss is a prevalent form of hearing loss that can be caused by various factors, including aging, noise exposure, genetics, infections, head trauma, autoimmune diseases, and ototoxic medications. The symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss can vary, and diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation that includes various audiological tests. Although often hearing loss is permanent, various treatments can help improve hearing and communication, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, bone-anchored hearing systems, speech therapy, and auditory rehabilitation.

When it comes to managing sensorineural hearing loss with sensorineural hearing aids, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s essential to consult with an audiologist to determine the most effective option based on individual needs and preferences. Most hearing aids are made to manage sensorineural hearing loss (that involves auditory nerve damage); therefore, some people name them as sensorineural hearing aids or hearing aids for nerve damage.

This article presents a comprehensive list of the foremost hearing aid brands and models offering advanced technology for sensorineural hearing loss. Individuals navigating the daunting task of selecting the optimal hearing aid for their sensorineural hearing loss will discover a valuable starting point in this compilation. Let us embrace the optimistic outlook that every individual has access to superior solutions for their hearing needs and that this resource serves as a stepping stone towards a brighter future of enhanced hearing and improved quality of life.

References:

[1] NIDCD – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2021). Quick Statistics About Hearing. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing

[2] NIDCD – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2021). Age-Related Hearing Loss. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss

[3] CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/default.html

[4] ASHA – American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2021). Incidence and Prevalence of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Use in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/research/reports/hearing/

[5] Mayo Clinic. (2021). Hearing loss. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20373072

[6] Healthline. (n.d.). Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sensorineural-hearing-loss#types

[7] American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (n.d.). Diagnosis of Hearing Loss. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/diagnosis-of-hearing-loss/

[8] Attune Hearing. (2022, February 27). Choosing the Right Hearing Aids for Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Retrieved from https://www.attune.com.au/2022/02/27/choosing-the-right-hearing-aids-for-sensorineural-hearing-loss/

[9] National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Best hearing aids. NCOA. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://www.ncoa.org/adviser/hearing-aids/best-hearing-aids/

Eleftheria Georganti
+ posts

Eleftheria's world revolves around sound - whether it's designing high-quality audio applications, crunching numbers in audio signal processing (DSP), decoding room acoustics, listening to music or crafting the latest hearing aid technology and new features. She has a professional career spanning over 15 years and a strong research record (over 40 articles and patents) and has been the driving force behind top-notch products at leading hearing aid and audio tech companies. But what really makes her enthusiastic is sharing what she knows. As an avid writer, she loves spreading the word on the science of hearing, hearing aids and health technologies. Her ultimate goal? To give people with hearing impairments the insights they need to live their best life.

Share.

Leave A Reply