Auditory dysfunction in stroke

Acta Otolaryngol. 2000 Sep;120(6):689-703. doi: 10.1080/000164800750000207.


The auditory and vestibular systems share the same end organ and cranial nerve, yet vestibular signs and symptoms are common with stroke, whereas hearing disturbances are much less frequent. Several reasons would appear to account for this striking dissimilarity. One is that the auditory pathway is less ubiquitous than the vestibular pathways. The likelihood that a stroke involves the auditory pathway is, therefore, less on this basis alone. A second difference, to our knowledge not previously reported, is that the auditory pathway is often spared by the most common strokes. This is because major parts of the auditory pathway, such as the cochlear nucleus, inferior colliculus and medial geniculate body, have multiple sources of blood supply. A third well-recognized factor is the redundancy of the central auditory system and its strong bilateral representation above the level of the cochlear nuclei. Consequently, rostral to the cochlear nuclei gross deficits in hearing, such as those measured by standard pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination, only occur if lesions are bilateral. Furthermore, widespread bilateral lesions of the auditory system typically render the patient unable to respond or are incompatible with life. In contrast, language disorders are more frequent because language is usually unilaterally represented in the cortex. Certainly, cerebral stroke often includes the auditory system, resulting in various types of auditory disorders, but most hemispherical lesions produce subtle hearing dysfunctions that can only be detected with sophisticated psychoacoustic and electrophysiological testing. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the auditory system and its blood supply and to review how auditory processing can be affected by stroke. Psychoacoustic and electrophysiological test procedures for identifying lesions in the central auditory system are described. The literature of hearing disorders due to stroke is reviewed and illustrative cases are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone / methods
  • Auditory Cortex / blood supply
  • Auditory Cortex / pathology
  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology
  • Auditory Pathways / blood supply
  • Auditory Pathways / pathology*
  • Auditory Pathways / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Cochlea / blood supply
  • Cochlea / physiopathology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hallucinations / diagnosis
  • Hallucinations / etiology
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology
  • Hearing Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Hearing Disorders* / etiology
  • Hearing Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sound Localization / physiology
  • Stroke* / complications
  • Stroke* / diagnosis
  • Stroke* / physiopathology
  • Tinnitus / diagnosis
  • Tinnitus / etiology
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / blood supply
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / pathology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiopathology