This type of hearing loss is due to a problem with the inner ear nerve cells that create the electrical impulses or the auditory nerve that transmits them. They can be damaged by things like loud noise exposure, trauma, metabolic diseases that reduce blood flow or affect blood chemistry (hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc.), autoimmune disorders, viruses, exposure to certain drugs, a genetic tendency for nerve cell degeneration with aging, or very rarely, a non-cancerous tumor (affecting the auditory nerve).
Most adult hearing loss is sensorineural. It can be any degree of hearing loss and may affect some or all pitches (often high pitches). It is not usually able to be helped with medical or surgical treatment, but more than ninety percent of the time it can be improved with hearing aids. A cochlear implant—a device that can generate electrical impulses—is a surgical treatment which is only appropriate for severe to profound hearing losses that don’t receive enough help from hearing aids.