Problems in communication concept, misunderstanding create confusion in work, miscommunicate unclear message and information, people have troubles with understanding each other due to auditory neuropathy.

Have you ever been in the middle of the roadway and your car breaks down? It’s not an enjoyable situation. You have to pull your car safely to the side of the road. Then you most likely open your hood and take a look at the engine. Who knows why?

What’s strange is that you do this even though you have no idea how engines work. Perhaps you think there’ll be a convenient handle you can turn or something. Sooner or later, you have to call somebody to tow your car to a mechanic.

And it’s only when the mechanics check out things that you get a picture of the problem. Just because the car is not moving, doesn’t mean you can know what’s wrong with it because vehicles are complex and computerized machines.

The same thing can happen in some cases with hearing loss. The cause is not always evident by the symptoms. Sure, noise-related hearing loss is the common cause. But in some cases, it’s something else, something such as auditory neuropathy.

Auditory neuropathy, what is it?

When most individuals consider hearing loss, they think of loud concerts and jet engines, excessive noise that harms your ability to hear. This type of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss, and it’s somewhat more involved than basic noise damage.

But sometimes, this type of long-term, noise induced damage is not the cause of hearing loss. While it’s less common, hearing loss can sometimes be caused by a condition known as auditory neuropathy. When sound can’t, for whatever reason, be correctly transmitted to your brain even though your ear is receiving that sound just fine.

Auditory neuropathy symptoms

The symptoms associated with auditory neuropathy are, at first glimpse, not all that distinct from those symptoms linked to conventional hearing loss. Things like cranking up the volume on your devices and not being able to hear very well in loud environments. That’s why diagnosing auditory neuropathy can be so challenging.

However, auditory neuropathy does have some unique features that make it possible to identify. When hearing loss symptoms manifest like this, you can be pretty certain that it’s not typical noise related hearing loss. Of course, nothing can replace getting an accurate diagnosis from us about your hearing loss.

The more distinctive symptoms of auditory neuropathy include:

  • Sound fades in and out: The volume of sound seems to rise and fall like someone is playing with the volume knob. If you’re encountering these symptoms it may be a case of auditory neuropathy.
  • Sounds sound jumbled or confused: Again, this isn’t a problem with volume. You can hear sounds but you simply can’t make sense of them. This can go beyond the spoken word and pertain to all kinds of sounds around you.
  • The inability to make out words: Sometimes, the volume of a word is just fine, but you just can’t distinguish what’s being said. Words are unclear and muddled sounding.

What triggers auditory neuropathy?

The root causes of this condition can, in part, be defined by its symptoms. It may not be entirely clear why you have developed auditory neuropathy on a personal level. Both children and adults can experience this condition. And there are a couple of well defined possible causes, broadly speaking:

  • Damage to the nerves: The hearing center of your brain gets sound from a specific nerve in your ear. If this nerve gets damaged, your brain doesn’t get the full signal, and consequently, the sounds it “interprets” will sound wrong. When this takes place, you might interpret sounds as garbled, indecipherable, or too quiet to discern.
  • Damage to the cilia that send signals to the brain: If these fragile hairs inside of your inner ear become damaged in a specific way, the sound your ear detects can’t really be sent on to your brain, at least, not in its complete form.

Risk factors of auditory neuropathy

Some people will develop auditory neuropathy while other people won’t and no one is quite sure why. As a result, there isn’t a definitive way to counter auditory neuropathy. Still, there are close connections which may reveal that you’re at a higher risk of experiencing this condition.

Bear in mind that even if you have all of these risk factors you still might or may not experience auditory neuropathy. But you’re more statistically likely to develop auditory neuropathy the more risk factors you have.

Children’s risk factors

Factors that can raise the risk of auditory neuropathy for children include the following:

  • A low birth weight
  • An abundance of bilirubin in the blood (bilirubin is a normal byproduct of red blood cell breakdown)
  • A lack of oxygen before labor begins or during birth
  • Other neurological conditions
  • Preterm or premature birth
  • Liver disorders that result in jaundice (a yellow look to the skin)

Risk factors for adults

Here are a few auditory neuropathy risk factors for adults:

  • Immune diseases of various kinds
  • Family history of hearing disorders, including auditory neuropathy
  • Certain medications (specifically incorrect use of medications that can cause hearing problems)
  • Certain infectious diseases, like mumps

In general, it’s a smart plan to minimize these risks as much as possible. If risk factors are there, it may be a good plan to schedule regular screenings with us.

Diagnosing auditory neuropathy

A standard hearing test consists of listening to tones with a set of headphones and raising a hand depending on what side you hear the tone on. That test won’t help much with auditory neuropathy.

Instead, we will generally recommend one of two tests:

  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test: During the course of this diagnostic test, you’ll have specialized electrodes attached to specific spots on your scalp and head. This test isn’t painful or uncomfortable in any way so don’t be concerned. These electrodes measure your brainwaves, with particular attention to how those brainwaves respond to sound. Whether you’re experiencing sensorineural hearing loss (outer ear) or auditory neuropathy (inner ear) will be established by the quality of your brainwaves.
  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test: The response of your inner ear and cochlea to stimuli will be checked with this diagnostic. We will put a small microphone just inside your ear canal. Then, we will play a series of tones and clicks. The diagnostic device will then evaluate how well your inner ear responds to those tones and clicks. If the inner ear is an issue, this data will expose it.

Diagnosing your auditory neuropathy will be much more successful once we run the applicable tests.

Does auditory neuropathy have any treatments?

So, in the same way as you bring your car to the mechanic to have it fixed, you can bring your ears to us for treatment! Generally speaking, there’s no “cure” for auditory neuropathy. But this disorder can be managed in several possible ways.

  • Hearing aids: In some milder cases, hearing aids will be able to provide the necessary sound amplification to help you hear better, even with auditory neuropathy. For some individuals, hearing aids will work perfectly fine! That said, this isn’t generally the case, because, again, volume is virtually never the issue. Hearing aids are often used in combination with other treatments because of this.
  • Cochlear implant: For some individuals, hearing aids will not be able to get around the problems. In these situations, a cochlear implant could be required. Signals from your inner ear are transmitted directly to your brain with this implant. They’re quite amazing! (And you can watch all kinds of YouTube videos of them working for patients.)
  • Frequency modulation: Sometimes, it’s possible to hear better by increasing or reducing specific frequencies. That’s what occurs with a technology known as frequency modulation. This strategy often makes use of devices that are, essentially, highly customized hearing aids.
  • Communication skills training: Communication skills exercises can be put together with any combination of these treatments if needed. This will allow you to work with whatever level of hearing you have to communicate better.

The sooner you receive treatment, the better

Getting your condition treated punctually will, as with any hearing disorder, produce better outcomes.

So it’s essential to get your hearing loss treated right away whether it’s the common form or auditory neuropathy. You’ll be able to go back to hearing better and enjoying your life after you make an appointment and get treated. This can be extremely crucial for children, who experience a lot of cognitive development and linguistic expansion during their early years.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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