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Inner Ear Nerve Damage

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 3/31/2010

The symptoms of inner ear nerve damage can be frightening, but they may not be permanent. Learn about symptoms, causes and treatments related to damaged inner ear nerves.

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    About the Ear

    The human ear consists of three separate sections referred to as the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The inner ear is comprised of the cochlea, Eustachian tube and auditory nerve. When sound is heard, it travels through the outer ear and middle ear, being passed along from one section to another, on the way to the inner ear.

    It begins at what we call the ear, which is the skin on the outside of the head. From there, sound travels through the ear canal (this is where you can find a wax build up) until it reaches the section known as the middle ear.

    Once it reaches the middle ear, sound causes the ear drum to vibrate and send the vibrations to the hammer and then the anvil. From the anvil, sound is passed to the stirrup.

    Sound leaves the middle ear when vibrations created by a small bone in the middle ear, called the stirrup, pass to the cochlea. The cochlea is shaped like a seashell and contains cells that are attached to nerve fibers. These nerve fibers act as transmitters to the brain.

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    Symptoms

    When the inner ear suffers nerve damage, certain symptoms may be present. Patients may experience inner ear inflammation, dizziness, hearing reduction or loss, or a loss of sound clarity.

    An additional symptom seems to be a paradox. It is called ‘recruitment’ and involves some hearing loss with sensitivity to loud noises. It can be a symptom of simple inner ear damage or something more serious.

    As with all inner ear nerve damage symptoms, its vital that the patient be thoroughly checked out by an audiologist or physician in order to accurately ascertain the problem, cause and possible treatments.

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    Causes and Complications

    Inner ear nerve damage caused by a viral infection can be permanent. This damage can result in varying degrees of hearing loss. When the auditory nerve fails to carry sound signals to the brain, it is called neural hearing loss or nerve deafness.

    When the inner ear nerves are damaged, the body’s ability to balance can be affected. This can cause vertigo or vertigo-like symptoms in the patient.

    A hereditary disease known as otosclerosis can spread to the inner ear and cause hearing impairment (sensorineural). This impairment can be permanent.

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    Treatment

    The treatment for inner ear nerve damage will depend upon several factors. For example, the treatment for recruitment is the use of a hearing aid designed to deal with the specific problem.

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    References

    Dizziness. July 12, 2008. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dizziness/DS00435/DSECTION=causes

    The Human Ear. NDT Resource Center. http://www.ndt-ed.org/EducationResources/HighSchool/Sound/humanear.htm

    Vertigo: Vestibular migraines. http://www.medicinenet.com/vertigo/page7.htm#toct

    Types and Causes of Deafness. http://library.thinkquest.org/15390/causes.htm

    Inner Nerve Damage. Ray Jolley MCD CCC-A Clinical Audiologist. http://www.southernutah.com/Articles/Over_50/486137.002111