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August 2013

The Neglected NeglectAuditory Neglect

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, Duke University Hospital, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina
  • 2Department of Neurology, University of Kentucky School of Medicine, Lexington, Kentucky
  • 3Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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JAMA Neurol. 2013;70(8):1065-1069. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.155

Whereas visual and somatosensory forms of neglect are commonly recognized by clinicians, auditory neglect is often not assessed and therefore neglected. The auditory cortical processing system can be functionally classified into 2 distinct pathways. These 2 distinct functional pathways deal with recognition of sound (“what” pathway) and the directional attributes of the sound (“where” pathway). Lesions of higher auditory pathways produce distinct clinical features. Clinical bedside evaluation of auditory neglect is often difficult because of coexisting neurological deficits and the binaural nature of auditory inputs. In addition, auditory neglect and auditory extinction may show varying degrees of overlap, which makes the assessment even harder. Shielding one ear from the other as well as separating the ear from space is therefore critical for accurate assessment of auditory neglect. This can be achieved by use of specialized auditory tests (dichotic tasks and sound localization tests) for accurate interpretation of deficits. Herein, we have reviewed auditory neglect with an emphasis on the functional anatomy, clinical evaluation, and basic principles of specialized auditory tests.