Amblyaudia: Review of Pathophysiology, Clinical Presentation, and Treatment of a New Diagnosis

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Abstract

Objective

Similar to amblyopia in the visual system, “amblyaudia” is a term used to describe persistent hearing difficulty experienced by individuals with a history of asymmetric hearing loss (AHL) during a critical window of brain development. Few clinical reports have described this phenomenon and its consequent effects on central auditory processing. We aim to (1) define the concept of amblyaudia and (2) review contemporary research on its pathophysiology and emerging clinical relevance.

Data Sources

PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases.

Review Methods

A systematic literature search was performed with combinations of search terms: “amblyaudia,” “conductive hearing loss,” “sensorineural hearing loss,” “asymmetric,” “pediatric,” “auditory deprivation,” and “auditory development.” Relevant articles were considered for inclusion, including basic and clinical studies, case series, and major reviews.

Conclusions

During critical periods of infant brain development, imbalanced auditory input associated with AHL may lead to abnormalities in binaural processing. Patients with amblyaudia can demonstrate long-term deficits in auditory perception even with correction or resolution of AHL. The greatest impact is in sound localization and hearing in noisy environments, both of which rely on bilateral auditory cues. Diagnosis and quantification of amblyaudia remain controversial and poorly defined. Prevention of amblyaudia may be possible through early identification and timely management of reversible causes of AHL.

Implications for Practice

Otolaryngologists, audiologists, and pediatricians should be aware of emerging data supporting amblyaudia as a diagnostic entity and be cognizant of the potential for lasting consequences of AHL. Prevention of long-term auditory deficits may be possible through rapid identification and correction.

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