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 had your car break down in the middle of the road? That really stinks! You have to pull your car off the road. And then, for whatever reason, you probably pop your hood and take a look at your engine.

Humorously, you still do this even though you have no knowledge of engines. Perhaps you think there’ll be a handy handle you can turn or something. Sooner or later, you have to call someone to tow your car to a mechanic.

And it’s only when the mechanics check out things that you get a picture of the issue. That’s because cars are complicated, there are so many moving pieces and computerized software that the symptoms (a car that won’t move) are not enough to tell you what’s wrong.

The same thing can occur in some cases with hearing loss. The cause is not always obvious by the symptoms. There’s the usual cause (noise-related hearing loss), sure. But sometimes, it’s something else, something such as auditory neuropathy.

Auditory neuropathy, what is it?

When most people think about hearing loss, they think of loud concerts and jet engines, excessive noise that harms your ability to hear. This kind of hearing loss, called sensorineural hearing loss is somewhat more complex than that, but you get the idea.

But sometimes, long-term hearing loss can be caused by something other than noise damage. A condition called auditory neuropathy, while less common, can in some cases be the cause. When sound can’t, for whatever reason, be correctly sent to your brain even though your ear is receiving that sound just fine.

Auditory neuropathy symptoms

The symptoms of conventional noise related hearing loss can sometimes look a lot like those of auditory neuropathy. Things like cranking the volume up on your devices and not being capable of hearing well in loud environments. This can frequently make auditory neuropathy hard to diagnose and treat.

Auditory neuropathy, however, has some specific symptoms that make identifying it easier. These presentations are rather solid indicators that you aren’t experiencing sensorineural hearing loss, but auditory neuropathy instead. Though, as always, you’ll be better served by an official diagnosis from us.

Here are some of the more unique symptoms of auditory neuropathy:

  • Difficulty understanding speech: Sometimes, the volume of a word is just fine, but you just can’t understand what’s being said. The words sound mumbled or distorted.
  • Sound fades in and out: The volume of sound seems to go up and down like someone is messing with the volume knob. This could be an indication that you’re experiencing auditory neuropathy.
  • Sounds sound jumbled or confused: Once again, this is not a problem with volume. You can hear sounds but you simply can’t understand them. This can go beyond the speech and pertain to all kinds of sounds around you.

Some triggers of auditory neuropathy

These symptoms can be articulated, in part, by the root causes behind this specific disorder. On a personal level, the reasons why you may develop auditory neuropathy may not be totally clear. Both adults and children can experience this disorder. And there are a couple of well defined possible causes, generally speaking:

  • Damage to the cilia that send signals to the brain: Sound can’t be passed to your brain in complete form once these little delicate hairs have been compromised in a specific way.
  • Nerve damage: The hearing portion of your brain receives sound from a specific nerve in your ear. The sounds that the brain tries to “interpret” will seem confused if there is damage to this nerve. Sounds might seem garbled or too quiet to hear when this occurs.

Risk factors of auditory neuropathy

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

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

Children’s risk factors

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

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

Risk factors for adults

For adults, risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing auditory neuropathy include:

  • Family history of hearing conditions, including auditory neuropathy
  • Some medications (especially incorrect use of medications that can cause hearing issues)
  • Various types of immune disorders
  • Specific infectious diseases, like mumps

In general, it’s a good plan to minimize these risks as much as you can. Scheduling regular screenings with us is a smart plan, especially if you do have risk factors.

Diagnosing auditory neuropathy

During a normal hearing assessment, you’ll likely be given a pair of headphones and be told to raise your hand when you hear a tone. That test won’t help very much with auditory neuropathy.

Rather, we will typically recommend one of two tests:

  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test: This diagnostic is made to measure how well your inner ear and cochlea react to sound stimuli. We will put a little 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 reacts to those tones and clicks. If the inner ear is an issue, this data will reveal it.
  • Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test: Specialized electrodes will be fastened to certain places on your scalp and head with this test. Again, don’t be concerned, there’s nothing painful or uncomfortable about this test. These electrodes place particular focus on measuring how your brainwaves react to sound stimuli. The quality of your brainwave responses will help us identify whether your hearing issues reside in your outer ear (as with sensorineural hearing loss) or further in (as with auditory neuropathy).

Diagnosing your auditory neuropathy will be much more successful once we do the appropriate tests.

Is there treatment for auditory neuropathy?

So you can bring your ears to us for treatment just like you take your car to the mechanic to get it fixed. In general, there’s no “cure” for auditory neuropathy. But this condition can be treated in several possible ways.

  • Hearing aids: In some less severe cases, hearing aids will be able to provide the necessary sound amplification to help you hear better, even with auditory neuropathy. Hearing aids will be an adequate option for some people. Having said that, this is not generally the case, because, again, volume is almost never the problem. Due to this, hearing aids are often combined with other therapy and treatment solutions.
  • Cochlear implant: Hearing aids won’t be able to solve the problem for most people. It may be necessary to go with cochlear implants in these cases. This implant, basically, takes the signals from your inner ear and conveys them directly to your brain. The internet has lots of videos of people having success with these amazing devices!
  • Frequency modulation: Sometimes, it’s possible to hear better by increasing or lowering certain frequencies. That’s what occurs with a technology called frequency modulation. Essentially, highly customized hearing aids are utilized in this approach.
  • Communication skills training: Communication skills exercises can be combined with any combination of these treatments if necessary. This will help you communicate using the hearing you have and work around your symptoms instead of treating them.

It’s best to get treatment as soon as possible

Getting your disorder treated right away will, as with any hearing disorder, lead to better outcomes.

So if you suspect you have auditory neuropathy, or even just ordinary hearing loss, it’s important to get treatment as soon as you can. The sooner you make an appointment, the more quickly you’ll be able to hear better, and get back to your daily life! This can be especially critical for children, who experience a great deal of cognitive development and linguistic expansion during their early years.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

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.
Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us