Objective: To examine the prevalence of auditory neuropathy in a group of infants at risk for hearing impairment and to present an overview of the clinical findings for affected children.
Design: Results for 20 subjects who showed repeatable cochlear microphonic potentials in the absence of click-evoked auditory brain stem responses are included in this study. Behavioral and steady state evoked potential thresholds were established in each case. Where possible, otoacoustic emission and speech perception results (unaided and aided) also were obtained.
Results: One in 433 (0.23%) of the children in our series had evidence of auditory neuropathy. The audiometric findings for these subjects varied significantly, with behavioral thresholds ranging from normal to profound levels. Discrimination skills were also variable. Approximately half of the subjects showed little understanding, or even awareness, of speech inputs in both the unaided and aided conditions. There were, however, a number of children who could score at significant levels on speech discrimination tasks and who benefited from the provision of amplification.
Conclusion: The results suggest that auditory neuropathy is more common in the infant population than previously suspected. The effects of neuropathy on auditory function appear to be idiosyncratic, producing significant variations in both the detection and discrimination of auditory signals. As such, the management of children with this disorder must allow for individual differences.