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What is sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common of the three types of hearing loss (with the other two being conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss).

This type of hearing loss implies that the tiny hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve (responsible for transmitting sound to the brain) are damaged. It is most often caused by the natural aging process or exposure to loud sounds1.

Hearing loss types

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Book a FREE* hearing check to find out if you have sensorineural hearing loss. We can help you understand your condition better and suggest treatment options.
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What causes sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs by damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This can happen due to several causes, including:

  • Aging - Age-related hearing loss, which is also called Presbycusis, is the most common form of sensorineural hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud sounds, such as a one-time explosion or continuous exposure to loud sounds over time
  • Certain drugs and medications
  • Genetics or complications during birth and pregnancy

What is sudden sensorineural hearing loss?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) - known as sudden deafness - involves an unexplained rapid loss of hearing all at once or over a couple of days. It is almost always experienced in one ear only.

In some cases, sudden onset sensorineural hearing loss can be reversed by medical treatment. If you experience sudden hearing loss, visit your doctor for medical advice or call us at 1800 340 631.

6 common signs of sensorinerual hearing loss

It can be difficult to identify the signs and symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss. To help you in the process, below are 6 common signs of sensorineural hearing loss:

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1. Difficulty following group conversations (especially when background noise is present)
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2. Trouble understanding speech in noisy surroundings (e.g. restaurants)
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3. Difficulty understanding phone conversations
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4. Sounds seem unclear or people sound like they are mumbling
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5. Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds
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6. Ringing or buzzing in the ears (called tinnitus)
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How is sensorineural hearing loss treated?

Sensorineural hearing loss can most often be treated with hearing aids. There are a wide variety of hearing aids available, with plenty of options to suit your needs and preferences. More severe sensorineural losses may benefit from medically implantable devices.

We recommend that you receive treatment as early as possible since sensorineural hearing loss can have unwanted side effects, such as decrease in life quality and loneliness.

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Prevent hearing loss before it impacts you or a loved one

Even if you don't currently have symptoms of hearing loss, you can still be proactive in preventing it. Using hearing protection, such as ear plugs, molds or earmuffs, is one effective way to prevent hearing loss. Wearing this protective gear will help to protect your ears from especially loud sounds, such as :

  • Garden tools like lawn mowers and leaf blowers
  • Woodworking machinery
  • Loud appliances
  • Work-related exposure, including factories and construction sites
  • Snowmobiles
  • Music

Excessively loud everyday sounds, both at home and at work, can pose a risk to your hearing health, so it's a good idea to invest in hearing protection if you expect to be exposed to loud noise. Avoiding loud sounds and reducing exposure can be beneficial for your longterm hearing health.

Hearing loss

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Nimi Daya Naran - Audiologist and Head of Medical Services & Graduate Development ANZ
 BA(Psych), M.Clin.Aud., MAudSA(CCP)

Nimi is an experienced Audiologist whose clinical career and dedication to the Audiology industry has afforded her many opportunities, where she has had the ability to specialise in paediatrics, adult rehabilitation, complex adult rehabilitation and tinnitus. Through these specialities she recognised her passion for clinical excellence and educating others. 

Today, she draws on that experience in her work as the Head of Medical Services and Graduate Development. Her current role allows her to raise hearing health awareness amongst general practitioners. As well as contribute to the development of clinicians in their early career, to ensure they have a strong clinical foundation as they begin their journey in the Audiology industry. She has also developed initiatives to improve clinical service delivery and client care. More recently she has established the Audika Specialist Referral Network, an initiative to ensure clients who could benefit from implantable technology are given access to these services. As well as ensuring these clients are supported throughout their implant journey.