Hearing Link

What is sensorineural hearing loss?

A sensorineural hearing loss is defined as damage to the hair cells in the cochlea (this is the sensory hearing organ) or damage to the neural pathways of hearing (nerves). With this type of hearing loss it is not always possible to tell which part is damaged and is therefore often listed together as sensorineural hearing loss.

Diagram of the human earA labelled diagram showing a cutaway of the different parts of the human ear, from the outer ear through the middle ear to the inner ear.

Video showing sensorineural hearing loss

Thanks to MED-EL

Causes of sensorineural hearing loss

Type Details Links
Age (presbyacusis) Gradual deterioration in hearing commonly occurring for both ears in the high pitched sounds.   Affects 1 in 7 people above the age of 65.


National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders

Medic 8

Meniere’s disease

Episodes of a build-up of excess fluid in one part of the inner ear cause pressure that affects the hearing and balance organ.

Typically affects one ear and causes a low pitch hearing loss which may fluctuate.  May cause tinnitus in addition to hearing loss.

Visit our Menieres page

Menieres Society


Genetic/non genetic Can be attributed to many different syndromes or through genetic or non genetic causes.


Hearing loss & cerebral palsy

Loud noise (noise induced hearing loss) Permanent or temporary hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. This may either be a sudden very loud sound or repeated exposure to high level sounds.

Health and Safety Executive


NHS Choices

Benign tumour (acoustic neuroma) A benign tumour which compresses the hearing nerve, typically affecting high pitch hearing in one ear. Can be associated with tinnitus and imbalance.

NHS Choices


Infection of inner ear May be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Hearing loss likely to be of sudden onset and of a variety of severity.

NHS Choices


Bang on the head (trauma) Fracture of skull may cause damage to the cochlea or the hearing nerve. NHS Choices
Ear surgery All ear surgery carries the risk of hearing loss due to trauma to the inner ear by surgical instruments.
Medicines that are toxic to the ear (Ototoxic medication) Can cause temporary or permanent damage to the cochlea, typically affecting the high pitches. They may include lifesaving antibiotics and some chemotherapy drugs.


NHS Choices – antibiotics

NHS Choices – chemotherapy

Infectious diseases such as meningitis Diseases such as measles, mumps and meningitis can cause permanent hearing loss or varying degrees in the cochlea.

NHS Choices – meningitis

NHS Choices – encephalitis

Unknown causes If all other possible causes (including the above) have been excluded.


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