Mental Numbness

Mind deafness, also called cortical deafness, is the slang term for auditory agnosia or acoustic agnosia. It is characteristic of this disease that those affected hear noises or spoken words, but cannot assign them or grasp their meaning. See ablogtophone for CUP Syndrome which stands for Cancer of Unknown Primary.

Mental Numbness

What is mental deafness?

Agnosia is a cognitive disorder. The processing of perceptions is disturbed, although the sense organs themselves are completely intact. The damage affects the respective brain area, in the case of auditory agnosia the hearing center. Depending on the severity, different types of mental deafness are distinguished:

  • Anyone who suffers from verbal auditory agnosia (deafness to words) cannot understand spoken words or can only do so with great difficulty. Those affected only perceive speech as noise. They therefore lack the ability to grasp the meaning of the words. Your own language skills are not restricted.
  • People with noise agnosia cannot identify everyday or environmental noises, while their understanding of speech is unimpaired. For example, you can no longer recognize the sound of an engine or the clinking of a bunch of keys. This also applies to the direction and distance from which the sounds are coming.
  • The affective auditory agnosia concerns the perception of the age, sex or the condition of the interlocutor. Only the factual content of a message is recorded. Patients affected by generalized mental deafness or generalized acoustic agnosia completely lack the ability to match and understand sounds and spoken words.


Mental deafness can either be congenital or the result of a skull injury or disease. In the case of congenital mental deafness, there is a risk of a misjudgment: a child who suffers from acoustic agnosia from birth does not learn to speak, read and write, or does so only insufficiently. It is also often unable to follow instructions because it does not understand their meaning. These limitations may lead to the child being classified as hard of hearing, deaf or even mentally handicapped.

In older children or adults, bleeding into the brain can occur as a result of an accident. High blood pressure and arteriosclerosis can also lead to a ruptured brain aneurysm, i.e. to a ruptured vasodilation in the brain. Other possible causes are meningitis, a stroke, a brain tumor or a serious mental illness.

The damage to the auditory cortex (= auditory center) located in the two rear temporal lobes, which is just the size of a thumbnail, means that the brain cannot interpret the acoustic stimuli arriving there, or only insufficiently.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Speech disorders in children such as stammering, cluttering or stuttering, but also hyperactivity, lack of contact or an attention deficit can be signs of innate auditory agnosia. If an adult whose hearing and ability to react was previously completely normal suddenly no longer reacts or no longer reacts appropriately to speech or noises, this indicates mental deafness.

People close to you may notice a change in behavior after an accident or severe brain disease. The person concerned no longer sings along when their favorite song is heard on the radio. He may find himself suddenly unable to hear music. He is no longer able to recognize familiar people by their voice. Or he has lost the ability to infer the state of the other person from the sound of the voice.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Mental deafness can be diagnosed with the help of a pure tone audiogram or a speech audiogram. In the tone audiogram, the conduction of the sound via the outer and middle ear to the inner ear (= air conduction) and the transmission of the sound waves via the cranial bones (= bone conduction) are examined. The speech audiogram is about understanding words and numbers and repeating what you hear.


Mental deafness can lead to various complications. Lesions in the brain, which result in irreparable functional damage on several levels, are considered to be triggers for complications. The degree of severity and the cause of the damage are decisive for the question of possible complications.

Motor dysfunction is common, as is a disruption in the processing of sensory impressions in the brain. A disturbed sense of balance can lead to serious falls with corresponding injuries. The ability to see may be weakened or no longer available. This makes the other symptoms appear even more severe. The agnostics can no longer function without help in society. Their intellectual abilities are severely reduced due to agnosia.

A further complication lies in possible consequential damage that is triggered on the basis of the agnosia. Autotopagnosia prevents many sufferers from locating physical pain or injuries they have suffered. Existing clinical pictures such as a diabetic foot can become worse as a result.

A second complicating factor of mental deafness is the emotional state of those affected by agnosia. A person affected by an agnosia suffers severe disabilities on the mental or physical level. This can lead to depression and mental stress. Most of the complications mentioned represent permanent damage, the effects of which can at best be alleviated.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of mental deafness, medical treatment should usually always be carried out in order to prevent further complications and symptoms. First and foremost, an early diagnosis with early treatment is necessary in order to avoid further mental upsets. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted at the first symptoms of mental deafness.

A doctor should be consulted for mental deafness if the person concerned suffers from severe sleep disorders or if there are disturbances in attention or severe stuttering. Hearing problems or a slower ability to react can also indicate mental deafness and should be examined by a doctor. A doctor should also be consulted if the person concerned can no longer correctly recognize or assign known persons or voices.

In the case of mental deafness, the family doctor can be consulted. The treatment of the disease itself is usually carried out by a psychologist. The course of the disease cannot be universally predicted.

Treatment & Therapy

Dealing with people who suffer from mental deafness requires a lot of patience and sensitivity. This includes speaking slowly and clearly, making eye contact and possibly repeating what has been said several times. In the case of congenital auditory agnosia, the affected child should receive hearing and speech training as early as possible. It is recommended to learn certain methods of teaching the deaf in a speech therapy school, especially lip reading.

It is also helpful to link acoustic and visual or tactile stimuli, i.e. simultaneous hearing and seeing or touching. A combination of several sensory stimuli is more memorable than one stimulus alone. Considerable success can also be achieved with music therapy, rhythmic exercises, play and sports therapy. For adults who suffer from acoustic agnosia after a stroke, for example, it is advisable to play a CD with known sounds and the respective designation. The person concerned should listen to this frequently, but only for a short time.

AUDIVA has developed the so-called DichoTrainer to train dichotic hearing. This is a portable device that plays different syllables or sound sequences simultaneously or at different times via headphones. The DichoTrainer is suitable for patients of all ages. The exercises can be individually tailored to the hearing impairment of the patient and enable a gradual increase in the requirements. A training session usually lasts four minutes. The best method of treating mental deafness is a combination of self-exercise and speech therapy.


Acoustic agnosia, unless congenital, is a consequence of brain injury or disease. It is therefore important to minimize the risk factors through a healthy diet, sufficient exercise, timely treatment of high blood pressure and avoiding nicotine and alcohol.


As a rule, the options and measures for direct aftercare in the case of mental deafness are significantly limited and are often not available to the person concerned. An examination and treatment should be initiated very early on, so that the occurrence of other symptoms and complications can be prevented.

As a rule, self-healing cannot occur in the case of mental deafness, so that the person affected always has to rely on medical treatment for this disease. Direct therapy for mental deafness is also not always possible, so that many of those affected depend on the help and support of their own families in their everyday life in order to limit the symptoms.

Psychological support is often very useful. Furthermore, various exercises can increase the mobility of those affected and thus also improve the quality of life. It is not uncommon for mental deafness to have contact with other sufferers, as this can lead to an exchange of information, which can make everyday life easier for the patient. However, the further course cannot be generally predicted, although the disease usually does not reduce the patient’s life expectancy.

You can do that yourself

This form of perceptual disturbance must be taken very seriously as it can lead to serious damage and illnesses. Therefore, the main focus of self-help is to prevent depression and to mobilize resources so that the affected patient can learn to deal with their mental numbness. Psychotherapeutic therapy, which may also include relatives, is therefore urgently recommended.

In addition, other measures are recommended that can prevent depression, such as exercise or individual sports therapy. Exercise in the fresh air also promotes mental balance. In addition, sport and exercise provide stimulating sensory impressions. A healthy lifestyle can also prevent illness-related depression and stabilize the mind and body. This includes a regular sleep/wake cycle and avoiding nicotine, alcohol and other toxins. A healthy diet with freshly prepared foods made from fruit, vegetables and wholesome products supports the healing process. Fast food, unhealthy fats and sugar confectionery should be replaced by home-cooked meals with natural foods.

Patients suffering from mental deafness, especially children, are generally also treated by a speech therapist who carries out listening and speech training with them. The exercises carried out there should be repeated at home frequently, but only briefly, so that long-term therapeutic success can be achieved.