Questions and Answers About Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Treating hearing loss leads to improved quality of life for the person who gets hearing aids AND their spouse. Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

I've just been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss - now what?

Being “diagnosed” with anything sounds scary; so go ahead and take a deep breath and let’s explore what this really means.

What is a sensorineural hearing loss?

First of all, if you have received this diagnosis know that you are not alone. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 37.5 million people over the age of 18 years have trouble hearing.

Sensorineural hearing loss refers to hearing loss that is caused by a problem in the inner ear (also called the cochlea) or in the nerve pathways that go from the cochlea to the brain. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent but is treatable. 

How is sensorineural hearing loss treated?

In most cases, medical or surgical treatment is not indicated for this type of hearing loss. The best treatment is amplifying the sounds that have been lost with the use of hearing aids.

Will I get dependent on hearing aids?

Once you start wearing hearing aids and realize what you have been missing you will want to wear them consistently. Think of it as being similar to eye glasses; once you can see clearly you want to see that way all the time. Once you hear well you will want to hear that way all the time. Being “dependent” on hearing aids is not a bad thing. It’s using technology to help you function at your best.

Do I need hearing aids if my hearing loss is mild?

That’s a complicated question. Every person is different and, as a result, has different communication needs. However, multiple studies have shown that using hearing aids improves the quality of life for the person with hearing loss and for their significant other.

Even mild hearing loss can impact the way you communicate with your spouse. For example, becoming frustrated when you can’t understand what they said, arguing over the television volume, or not wanting to go out because it is more difficult to hear in background noise can all happen with even a mild hearing loss. These factors can lead to depression.

A study out of Johns Hopkins University found a strong correlation between the degree of hearing loss and a person’s risk of developing dementia. For someone with mild hearing loss, the risk of developing dementia is doubled when compared to a person with normal hearing.

Am I going to go deaf?

The short answer: Probably not.

The longer answer: It’s completely natural to want to know the prognosis for your hearing loss. Hearing loss has many different causes that will impact progression. Most people will experience a decline in their hearing as they age. This decline is usually very gradual. If you do have existing hearing loss, the best thing you can do is to protect what you have.

That means protecting your ears in noisy situations – including loud music, noisy hobbies, yard work, and occupational noise.

Talk with your audiologist about your concerns and they can best advise you regarding your particular hearing loss.

Sources

Quick Statistics (April 2015). National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Accessed 1/22/16 from http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/pages/quick.aspx

Lin, F. R., Metter, E. J., O’Brien, R. J., Resnick, S. M., Zonderman, A. B., & Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68, 214–220.

Kochkin, S., & Rogin, C. M. A. (2000). Quantifying the obvious: The impact of hearing instruments on quality of life [PDF, 5.5MB]. Hearing Review, 7(1), 8–34.

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