What is sensorineural hearing loss? It’s nerve damage to the inner ear, the cochlea, targeting certain frequencies of sounds. This is a tricky hearing loss to have and often misunderstood. Those of us who have it can hear but have a difficult time understanding what we hear.
- We hear voices but can’t understand all the words.
- Depending on the kind of hearing loss we have, we can hear the garbage truck coming down the street but can’t hear the birds, or vice versa.
- Better understand men than women, or vice versa.
Turn up your hearing aid!
A common misconception people have is that turning up our hearing aids will help us understand better. With a conductive hearing loss volume helps but it doesn’t quite work that way with a sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing aids help those of us with sensorineural hearing loss but they only help so much depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Technology has improved a great deal in the last 20 years making them better, but they still do not give us back normal hearing.
Types of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Before we go further, here’s a short description of the 3 different kinds of sensorineural hearing losses. You might also hear it called ‘nerve damage’. Sometimes it’s genetic, sometimes there’s a reason for the hearing loss and other times it’s unknown.
The following are basic descriptions only. To learn more about hearing loss, do your own research and be sure to talk to your audiologist or Ear Nose Throat specialist.
- High frequency hearing loss, the classic ski slope loss. This is the most common, why? This group includes noise induced hearing loss and age related hearing loss (presbycusis). It can also come from ototoxic drugs.
- Cookie bite hearing losses have a chunk missing from the middle of the audiogram.
- A reverse slope hearing loss.
What do these hearing losses look like?
Keep in mind that hearing losses/audiograms are individual. It’s going to be a little different for everyone. The following are to give you an idea of what it looks like.
Volume & Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing aids help. For instance I (Chelle) have a severe high frequency hearing loss. My word discrimination is about 30% without hearing aids. With hearing aids it’s 60%. It doesn’t sound like a big jump but it does make a difference.
I have a profound loss in the high frequencies. Once it’s profound it’s not likely to come back. The audiologist can only turn up sounds so far. No matter what, I am always missing at least the F, S, TH and T sounds in speech.
The problem with volume and high frequency hearing loss is that vowels and other strong consonants can override other sounds I might hear. I like to use the word “shout”. The SH and the T are very hard for me to hear. I might hear the SH sound in a quiet environment with hearing aids on, the T not all. What I hear well is the OU/OW sound. If you yell the word, the only thing I will hear is OW and nothing else. Katherine Bouton’s book title, “Shouting Won’t Help” is truth!
Another example: background noise can override what I can hear. While on an airplane, the jets completely override any speech for me. I am deaf. (Also a sort of blessing because I don’t hear screaming babies or barking dogs on the plane either.)
Filling in the Gaps
Hearing aids help fill in the gaps. Lipreading also fills in the gaps. The thing is, most of us don’t know we are lipreading. I didn’t know I was lipreading for years.
I already told you I have 30% word discrimination without hearing aids, or my eyes. I have 60% with my hearing aids and no eyes. For fun, they tested me with my eyes (this was before I started teaching lipreading) and my hearing aids and I got a 90% word discrimination score. Lipreading compliments technology.
The name “lipreading” is misleading. We aren’t just lipreading, watching the lips and breaking down sounds by shape. That’s why they updated it to “speechreading”. That’s a little better because we do like to use our remaining hearing but it still implies voice and lips. Neither term adequately covers everything we do. We are taking in language holistically; visually with gestures, facial expressions and body language. We are filling in other holes with logic because not all words are lip readable!
We have lipreading classes.
When I tell people I speechread, I get blank stares. When I tell people I lipread, they face me. This is why I still use the term lipreading.
Hearing Loss LIVE! teaches lipreading classes. There are a lot of concepts behind lipreading, other strategies & tools, than just lip shapes. Our Lipreading Concepts class will help you set your stage for better communication even if you don’t go on to Lip Shapes LIVE. Both classes also help hearing family and friends how to improve communication.
Past guest Liza Sylvestre.
A little over a year ago, Liza was a guest with us. She has a video in which she recites a poem they way she hears it. It’s titled, “Wha_ i_ I _old you a __ory in a language I _an _ear.“