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What is Sensorineural hearing loss?

sensorineural hearing loss
Have you ever found yourself wondering what sensorineural hearing loss means? It’s a complex term and comes in a range of severity. Sensorineural hearing loss is different for everyone. Check out our handy guide for all the facts. 

What is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss or SNL is hearing loss caused by damage to the cochlear or other inner ear structures. Most hearing loss is SNL, with 90 percent of hearing loss attributed to sensorineural causes. 

“…90 percent of hearing loss (is) attributed to sensorineural causes.”

The trouble with sensorineural hearing loss is that it’s almost always permanent, unlike conductive hearing loss, which is usually temporary. Conductive hearing loss can be treated with surgical intervention or medication, while SNL can only be assisted with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

What Causes Sensorineural Hearing Loss?

A few things can cause SNL. Sometimes it goes unexplained. Usually there is an apparent reason. Some of the causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:


Inherited hearing loss is common. So far, scientists have found more than 40 genes known to cause sensorineural hearing loss. Some medical conditions cause hearing loss. There are currently around 300 syndromes that can cause hearing loss. Many of these syndromes are thought to be linked to genes. Some syndromes that commonly cause hearing loss are Stickler syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, and Usher syndrome. 

All types of genetic mutations have been linked to hearing loss, such as recessive genes, dominant genes, X-linked genes, and mitochondrial genetic mutations. Any of these gene types can affect the structure of the inner ear. A common form of recessive genetic congenital hearing loss is Connexin 26 deafness.  

Read more: The stresses and rewards of genetic testing for hearing loss


Hearing loss that is referred to as congenital means hearing loss is present at birth. This could be the result of an infection, like congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus. Or it could be from premature birth, lack of oxygen, or simply genetics.


The term “presbycusis” refers to age-related hearing loss, which affects us all at some point or another. However, age-related hearing loss can occur as early as 18 and is more common in men than women. Presbycusis often affects the higher frequencies.


Some forms of sensorineural hearing loss are caused by noise, such as exposure from rock concerts or industrial sites. Noise-induced hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus, that annoying ringing or whistling in the ears. 

Signs of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

If you have any concerns at all about your hearing, please see your audiologist or primary care practitioner. Here are some signs of SNL to look for: 

  • Difficulty hearing through background noise
  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched voices
  • A muffled sensation when you try to hear
  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness and balance issues

Degree of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

In the United States, there are six tiers of hearing loss. The table below shows the range of hearing loss and what each is called.

Stage of Hearing LossDegree of Hearing Loss
Normal Hearing0-25 dB
Mild Hearing Loss25 – 40 dB
Moderate Hearing Loss40 – 60 dB
Severe Hearing Loss60 – 80 dB
Severe-to-Profound Hearing Loss80 – 90 dB
Profound Hearing Loss90 dB or more

Phonak Hearing Solutions for Sensorineural Hearing Loss

If you’re in need of an answer to your hearing-related problems, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the different types of Phonak hearing solutions that could help you with your sensorineural hearing loss.

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids

BTE hearing aids come in a variety of sizes and colors. They’re made up of a rubber dome, a receiver wire, and the hearing aid itself. The dome sits just inside your ear canal and is attached to the hearing aid by the receiver wire. You then loop the hearing aid over the ear so it sits behind your ear.

Examples are the Phonak Naida Marvel and the Phonak Bolero Marvel.

Receiver-in-the-Canal (RIC) Hearing Aids

RIC hearing aids are similar to BTE hearing aids, except that the dome also functions as a speaker. Thus, the speaker sits inside the ear canal. They don’t work well for profound hearing loss, but they’re much more discreet if you suffer from mild or moderate hearing loss. Check out the Phonak Audeo Paradise

In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids

In-the-ear hearing aids are super discreet and very comfortable. If you’re shy about wearing hearing aids or just want something smaller, check out Phonak’s In-the-Ear hearing aids. They come in a range of colors, from flesh-colored (for the ultimate in discretion) to business black. Look at the Phonak Virto Marvel. 


Phonak’s Lyric hearing aid is a permanent solution to your sensorineural hearing loss. It sits inside the ear canal and remains there 24/7. Lyric doesn’t need new batteries or a replacement for months, so it is an ideal long-term solution. 

Single-Sided Hearing Solutions

Don’t despair if your hearing loss is one-sided; Phonak has plenty of solutions with the single-sided user in mind. Phonak offers Contralateral Routing of Signal or CROS devices – hearing aids that are designed specifically for single-ear users called the Phonak CROS B.

Read more: Single sided hearing loss

Author Details
Mel is a hard-of-hearing writer from the UK. She has moderate-severe hearing loss by American definitions and moderate hearing loss by British measurements. She relies on hearing aids and lipreading. She lives in Wales with her French Bulldog puppy and mischievous tortoiseshell cat. Mel identifies as a demisexual lesbian.