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Auditory processing disorders

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 17 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2080
  1. Doris-Eva Bamiou, senior lecturer12,
  2. Linda M Luxon, professor of audiovestibular medicine12
  1. 1Neuro-otology Department, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London WC1N 3BG
  2. 2University College London Ear Institute, London WC1X 8EE
  1. d.bamiou{at}

    Can cause educational, behavioural, and social problems but are often undiagnosed

    Hearing impairment is the most common sensory disability worldwide and has a profound effect upon an individual’s ability to function at a personal, social, and occupation level. In February 2008, the Royal College of Physicians published a report about the diagnosis and management of hearing and balance disorders.1

    The hearing process is underpinned by the transmission and analysis of sounds from the external ear to the auditory cortex. Disorders of the external, middle, and inner ear are well recognised, but recent advances have made us aware of hearing disorders related to the auditory nerve and brain.

    In 1954 it was shown that brain pathology can lead to hearing difficulties that are not identified by conventional audiometry.2 More recent work has shown that hearing difficulties can be caused by disordered auditory processing within the brain across all age ranges. Auditory processing disorders result from impaired neural function and are characterised by poor recognition, discrimination, separation, grouping, localisation, or ordering of non-speech sounds.3 They may be developmental or acquired. The exact prevalence of auditory processing disorders is unknown, but they are estimated to affect around 5% of school aged children and an …

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