Why Would I Need An MRI For Hearing Loss?

Hearing Loss is the inability to perceive sound. The faculty of hearing can be affected due to inner ear damage or nerve dysfunction. The condition is usually self -diagnosed and reported as non-functionality to ken sound. Hearing loss can have varied causes which include congenital disorder, injury to the ear canal, diseases associated with nose, larynx and ear inflammation, sudden loud noise exposure, toxicity developed due to consumption of xenobiotics or age related degeneration of hearing faculty of the ears.

MRI is Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It involves scanning of body for generation of images of various body parts. MRI Scanning works on the principle of using strong magnetic fields and radio waves for production of images of body parts that can’t be seen well with other diagnostic aids like CT scan, x ray and ultrasound. MRI is used for examination of visceral organs and internal body structures. It specifies anatomical detail of the organs being examined. The patient is made recumbent on the table that slides into a narrow opening of the machine.

The procedure is entirely painless, but there will be a loud thumping or tapping noise. It takes an average of 30 to 60 minutes for the scanning to get completed.

Why Would I Need An MRI For Hearing Loss?

After the determination of the cause and type of hearing loss, observation of symptoms (which include reduced or complete inability to perceive sound, consistent ringing noise in the ear, presence of pain or pressure in the ear), recording of medical history and a proper physical examination by a specialized otolaryngologist, the affected patient is advised to go for MRI Scanning.

MRI Scanning is generally done in cases where only one ear is involved, that is, in Unilateral Hearing loss. This scan visualizes soft tissues and anatomical details of the inner ear, auditory nerve and surrounding structures. It can reveal the patency as well as abnormal growth on the Auditory nerve pathway, which can prevent normal functioning of the ear and lead to hearing loss. Thus, MRI serves as a proper diagnostic aid for detection of the cause and extent of Hearing Loss.(1)

How Hearing Works?

Sound enters into the outer ear canal which leads to vibration of eardrum. The sound waves are transferred from small bones called ossicles (found in middle ear) to inner ear- Cochlea. The vibrations lead to movement of the fluid in cochlea, which leads to bending of hair cells. This bending of hair cells releases nerve signals which get received by Auditory nerve. The auditory nerve sends signals to brain, which then interprets them as sound.

Types Of Hearing Loss

There are mainly three types of Hearing Loss :

Sensorineural Hearing Loss: It is due to absence of or damage of hair cells present in the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent in nature. It is also called as “Nerve deafness.” It can be mild, moderate or severe , depending upon the severity of clinical signs observed. If the hearing loss is mild or moderate, it can be corrected by usage of hearing aids or application of middle ear implant. If the hearing loss is severe or profound, Cochlear ear implants are the only solution.

Neural Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is due to malfunctioning or absence of the Auditory nerve, which receives the nerve signals and sends them to brain. This type of hearing loss is generally severe. Hearing aids or ear implants are of no help as nerve is affected in this case.

Mixed Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and neural hearing loss. It is due to affections in outer, inner or middle ear. Mixed hearing loss can be corrected by usage of hearing aids, medication and surgery can be used as a last resort.

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