Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a type of hearing loss where the inner ear (cochlea and/or vestibulocochlear nerve) is affected. Symptoms can vary from total deafness to mild hearing impairment (tinnitus may or may not be present in this type of hearing loss).


The cause of SNHL can be due to loud noise exposure, genetics, infection, drugs, or trauma. Either the ‘sensory’ component or the ‘neural’ component of the ear can be affected.

There is no cure for SNHL and conventional treatment focuses on hearing aids or cochlear implants to help amplify/enhance the sound coming into the ear.

Research related to stem cells for SNHL is focusing on trying to repair or regenerate hair cells and improve the sensory component of the hearing loss, but results have been limited. Currently, stem cells can be used to try and repair or regenerate the vestibulocochlear nerve portion of SNHL to improve auditory signal to the brain.

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The most current research regarding stem cells and SNHL is given below:

Transplantation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in cochlea to repair sensorineural hearing
Yueying Ma, Weiwei Guo, Haijin Yi, Lili Ren, Lidong Zhao, Yue Zhang, Shuolong Yuan, Riyuan Liu, Liangwei Xu, Tao Cong, Oghagbon EK, Suoqiang Zhai, and Shiming Yang

Abstract: To examine if transplantation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UMSC) into cochlea can be used to repair sensorineural hearing. Here we transplanted the fifth and sixth generations of UMSCs through the subarachnoid cavity of congenital deaf albino pigs. Auditory brainstem responses (ABR) were measured before and after UMSC transplantation. Cochlear samples were collected at 2 hrs, 3 days, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 weeks after transplantation. Immunohistochemistry was used to detect the proliferated cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). The UMSCs were found in different regions of the cochlea, including the stria vascularis, the basal membrane and the spiral ganglions, 3 days to 4 weeks after the transplantation. UMSCs and their DNA were found also in the areas of the brain, the heart, the liver, the kidney and the lung. ABR tests displayed a new waveform in the congenital deaf albino pigs after the UMSCs transplantation. We conclude that human UMSCs injected into the subarachnoid space can migrate into the inner ear, the central nervous system and the periphery organs. The presence of UMSCs in the cochlea maybe associated with changes of ABR waveforms in the congenital deaf albino pigs.