Sensorineural hearing loss or "nerve deafness" is among the most common afflictions of the ear causing hearing loss. "Nerve deafness" is a bit of a misleading name, as frequently we are unable to tell whether the hearing loss is due to nerve disorder or sensory cell disorder.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Turning the TV on "too loud" for others
- Poor speech clarity or the perception of "mumbling" by others
- Need to ask people to repeat words
- Misunderstanding conversation
- Poor hearing performance in noisy backgrounds
These problems arise based on the type of hearing loss present.
Typically, these patients hear worst in the high-frequency (treble) end of hearing while the low-frequency hearing is normal or nearly so. In English, the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) are low-frequency sounds while the consonants, the main information, are high-frequency sounds. Thus, in normal conversation, a person with a standard nerve hearing loss will only get part of each word, missing the consonants that contain the information. Thus, to the affected person, normal speech sounds muffled or like the speaker is mumbling.
There is also a problem with loudness of sounds such that the range of comfortable listening from just barely hearing to painfully loud is contracted. Thus, merely raising voice volume for the patient may not help much at all, as the sound quickly becomes so loud as to produce pain.
Individuals experiencing this kind of hearing loss also frequently have problems with the portion of the brain (and/or ear) that translates sounds heard into language.
The hearing level and discrimination of sounds as well as other aspects of hearing are tested when you have a hearing test.
The damage in "nerve deafness" is actually either in the nerve leading to the brain itself or the cells deep within the inner ear. In most cases, doctors are not able to tell which element is damaged, which is why we use the term "sensorineural" hearing loss.
This condition comes about from damage to the inner ear from a variety of factors but most commonly from the aging process or loud noise damage. Typically, the changes are permanent, and hearing loss may progressively worsen.
"Nerve deafness" is treated with hearing aids if it is causing problems with social interactions. The type of interactions will influence the type of hearing aid(s) required.
This will vary for the public speaker as compared to a person who mainly interacts in small groups. Whatever type of hearing aid is selected, it is designed specifically for the type and degree of hearing loss present, much like a pair of eyeglasses. The fitting is done by an audiologist, a professional with graduate school training and specific school work dealing with hearing aids. They are licensed by the State of Kansas and certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association.