Aphasia and Auditory Processing after Stroke through an International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health Lens

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Aphasia is an acquired language impairment affecting speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Aphasia occurs in about a third of patients who have ischemic stroke and significantly affects functional recovery and return to work. Stroke is more common in older individuals but also occurs in young adults and children. Because people experiencing a stroke are typically aged between 65 and 84 years, hearing loss is common and can potentially interfere with rehabilitation. There is some evidence for increased risk and greater severity of sensorineural hearing loss in the stroke population and hence it has been recommended that all people surviving a stroke should have a hearing test. Auditory processing difficulties have also been reported poststroke. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) can be used as a basis for describing the effect of aphasia, hearing loss, and auditory processing difficulties on activities and participation. Effects include reduced participation in activities outside the home such as work and recreation and difficulty engaging in social interaction and communicating needs. A case example of a young man (M) in his 30s who experienced a left-hemisphere ischemic stroke is presented. M has normal hearing sensitivity but has aphasia and auditory processing difficulties based on behavioral and cortical evoked potential measures. His principal goal is to return to work. Although auditory processing difficulties (and hearing loss) are acknowledged in the literature, clinical protocols typically do not specify routine assessment. The literature and the case example presented here suggest a need for further research in this area and a possible change in practice toward more routine assessment of auditory function post-stroke.

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