Is poor word discrimination a physical deficiencies?

I think I read somewhere (“Auditory Diagnosis” Roeser/Valente/Dunn text book, I think) that if you make audible the content of a nerve from the cochlea-basiar membrane, what you hear is a bunch of pulse-like sounds…not a replica of the actual sounds.

These pulse-like replicas are processed through a couple of organs (olivary, thalamus, etc) in the old lizard part of the brain and then fed into the auditory cortex where they are compared to memories of meaning. A complex path and a complex process.

If anything along the way is not functioning 100%…Distortion/non-comprehension.


I’ve been advised to get tested for auditory neuropathy. If your word recognition score is below what is expected for your hearing loss, the cause could be in the ganglion cells located just below the hair cells. The hair cells usually are functioning enough to produce sounds that are picked up by a small microphone inserted in your ear. The test is called acoustic emissions testing. If the sound is picked up your hair cells are working. The next step is to conduct a brain stem test. Hair cells basically amplify the sound, while the ganglion cells do a type of processing before sending the signal on to the brain. So, the good news is if it can be determined that you have ganglion cell loss and amplification attempts don’t work, you may qualify for a cochlear implant. Children with this condition are being successfully implanted even with a mild tonal loss. There’s more to it than what I’ve stated but it’s worth checking out.

THANK YOU. I’m working on installing this now. I wish this was information I would come across normally. :):):):):):):):slight_smile:


I have never seen/or heard an explanation of how normal hearing persons process sounds into meaning.

As I understand it, the nerve from the cochlea hair cells go on a convoluted path through the olivary thence through the basil ganglia, then through the thalamus and, if i haven’t missed anything, finaly to the brain’s auditory complex…all inthe form of electrical pulses that carry meaning in their timing.

How these pulses get translated into meaning, I don’t understand…does anyone?

Note that information is in electrical pulse form a long way from the original speech. Was I asleep when they covered this subject?


Thanks, Rose. That was very nice was of explaining it.

If you are really interested look into the study of Psychoacoustics.

I’d say that there isn’t enough time/space to discuss the complexities involved in processing auditory inputs on this board. It’s great reading material for bedtime…lol

I know I’m digging a dead old thread here but I came across it while searching for word discrimination.

I would like to add my personal experience in case someone referred to it in the future, I was born with hearing loss in both ears, nerve damage, Since my childhood I have always believed that my left ear was near deaf compared to my right ear since I was able to recognize speech only with my right ear regardless of how loud the sound was, I can talk on the phone or mobile with the right ear with no issues but would never understand a word from my left. For 30 years I have totally relied on my right ear and entirely ignored my left one even after wearing an aid 8 years ago in the right and thought a left aid would be worthless.

I was surprised when my new Audiologist showed and discussed my Audiogram for the 1st time few years back and informed me that there is insignificant difference between the loss in both ears and that they are nearly similar, while for me it was like day and light.

7 months ago, I had finally decided to get fitted with 2 hearing aids which was very annoying at first and affecting my ability to understand due to the sounds coming into my left ear however, few months later and after some adaptation, I can now notice that turning off my left hearing aid has a high impact on my hearing and speech recognition, I still can’t hear or understand using my left one on its own but it is now indeed assisting and improving the overall process.

Through my personal experience, I believe that word discrimination is a physical deficiency due to the clarity and quality of the sound being delivered with the nerve damage and hair cells etc… affecting how severe it can be however, with some exercise, your brain can learn how to benefit from the sounds it can gather from the ear.