Pure Word Deafness
Pure word deafness is a rare condition characterized by an inability to comprehend and discriminate spoken language, despite adequate hearing as measured by audiometry, and with preserved spontaneous speech, reading, reading comprehension, and writing (i.e., no aphasia, alexia, agraphia). Lip reading may assist in the understanding of others who sometimes seem to the patient as though they are speaking in a foreign language. Patients can copy and write spontaneously, follow written commands, but cannot write to dictation. Word repetition tasks are impaired. There may be associated amusia, depending on the precise location of cerebral damage.
Pure word deafness has been variously conceptualized as a form of auditory agnosia or a subcortical sensory aphasia.
Pure word deafness is most commonly associated with bilateral lesions of the temporal cortex or subcortical lesions whose anatomical effect is to damage the primary auditory cortex or isolate it (e.g., from Wernicke’s area) through lesions of the auditory radiation; unilateral lesions producing this syndrome have been reported. Very rarely pure word deafness has been associated with bilateral brainstem lesions at the level of the inferior colliculi.
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Roberts M, Sandercock P, Ghadiali E. Pure word deafness and unilateral right temporo-parietal lesions: a case report. Journal of Neurology,Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 1987; 50: 1708-1709
Tanaka Y, Yamadori A, Mori E. Pure word deafness following bilateral lesions. A psychophysical analysis. Brain 1987; 110: 381-403