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What is sensorineural hearing loss and how can it be treated?

Posted by Alden Hui on July 15, 2020
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Sensorineural hearing loss can be sudden or happen gradually. In both cases, you want to seek treatment in order to improve your quality of life. With over 3 million Canadians dealing with some sort of hearing related disability, you are not alone. Fortunately, advances in technology (hearing aids) are happening all the time. 


What is sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss (or sensorineural deafness) is caused by problems in the inner ear, sensory organ, or vestibulocochlear nerve (nerve that transmits sound to the brain). It is also known as nerve-related hearing loss. Unlike conduction hearing loss (or conduction deafness), sensorineural can be permanent unless treated. 

What does sensorineural hearing loss feel like?

Although the damage caused by sensorineural hearing loss is internal, the result will be similar to that of outward damage. Depending on the severity, even loud noises can sound muffled.

Some other symptoms may be:

  • A lack of noise perception when it comes to volume
  • Inability to distinguish acute sounds.
  • Different volume levels depending on your ear
  • Feeling off-balance or dizzy 
  • Difficulty hearing when there is background noise 

What causes sensorineural hearing loss?

The causes of permanent, inner (sensorineural) vary:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Excessive, loud noise exposure
  • Viral infections (such as measles or mumps)
  • Shingles
  • Ototoxic drugs (medications that damage hearing)
  • Meningitis
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High fever or elevated body temperature
  • Ménière's disease (a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance)
  • Acoustic tumors
  • Heredity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension

Source: Starkey

Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss

The treatment heavily depends on the status and health of your hearing nerve. However, it is best to be proactive as limited hearing can create significant issues. 

  • Irreversible or permanent hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, or surgically treated with cochlear implants.
  • In the event of a condition such as meniere’s disease or autoimmune inner ear disease, there are specific treatments. Visit hearingloss.org for more details on the various circumstances.

Mixed hearing loss treatments

As mixed hearing loss is caused by a combination of both sensorineural and conductive (outer) hearing loss, it may require a combination of treatments. Typically, hearing aids in combination of some conductive treatment to enhance hearing. Some professionals may advise dealing with the conductive issue before the sensorineural one. 

How to diagnose hearing loss

  • Physical exam – doctor will look in your ear for obstruction, infection, or other structural issues
  • General screening test – doctor whispers in one ear while the other is covered
  • App-based hearing test – online app test
  • Tuning fork tests – used to determine where the issue or damage to ear has occurred through a tuning fork “instrument”
  • Audiometer tests – this is an in-depth test requiring earphones played at varying frequencies.

More info at Mayoclinic

How much are Hearing Aid costs in Canada?

Expect to pay between $1000 to $4000+ per hearing aid based on the features and capabilities.

A recent CBC article highlights secrets of the hearing aid industry in a discussion with a hearing aids manufacturer. The article notes that hearing aids cost $150 to produce on average, then are sold to retailers or audiologists for $400-$600, which is later marked up to sell to the consumer for anywhere from $1000-4000. There will be variety in pricing and mark up based on the technology as the $150 is only an average production cost. However, the article notes that the mark up is largely due to servicing from the audiologists, in which case end consumers are paying for the product and the service (checkups, cleaning, warranty, adjustments).

Hearing aids costs are dependent on their features and meant to last a couple years based on the provider. There is usually servicing built into the price. Here are some features impacting price:

  • Features included
  • Services provided
  • Continued research
  • Product lifespan
  • Your lifestyle – noise level in your environment

Source: Hear.com

Coverage for your hearing loss

In the event that hearing aids or other medical treatments are required, there are funding options. Each province offers different programs. Please refer to this article for more information. 

Coverage for Canadian small business owners

Medical expenses are an eligible expense inside a Health Spending Account (HSA). The cost of the hearing aids, tests, and other related expenses can be deducted as a pre-tax expense through your corporation. A Health Spending Account is a cost-effective plan specifically built for small business owners to reduce their medical expenses. It turns 100% of after-tax personal medical expenses into before-tax business expenses. To see how much you can save, check out our HSA calculator – simply input your income, yearly medical expenses, and province.

A Health Spending Account is not just limited to hearing related expenses. There are all types of eligible medical expenses. See the full list of eligible Health Spending Account expenses.

Download the FREE Beginner's Guide to a Health Spending Account:

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Related Reading:

Types of Hearing Loss, Treatment, and Hearing Aids in Canada

 

Topics: medical expenses, hearing aids, hearing loss