Acute auditory agnosia as the presenting hearing disorder in MELAS

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MELAS is commonly associated with peripheral hearing loss. Auditory agnosia is a rare cortical auditory impairment, usually due to bilateral temporal damage. We document, for the first time, auditory agnosia as the presenting hearing disorder in MELAS. A young woman with MELAS (A3243G mtDNA mutation) suffered from acute cortical hearing damage following a single stroke-like episode, in the absence of previous hearing deficits. Audiometric testing showed marked central hearing impairment and very mild sensorineural hearing loss. MRI documented bilateral, acute lesions to superior temporal regions. Neuropsychological tests demonstrated auditory agnosia without aphasia. Our data and a review of published reports show that cortical auditory disorders are relatively frequent in MELAS, probably due to the strikingly high incidence of bilateral and symmetric damage following stroke-like episodes. Acute auditory agnosia can be the presenting hearing deficit in MELAS and, conversely, MELAS should be suspected in young adults with sudden hearing loss.

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