Anacusis: total deafness

Why does anacusis and deafness occur?

Anacusis, otherwise known as total deafness, is a complete lack of auditory perception to the degree of hearing loss of more than 120 dB. It is a less common form of hearing loss, as even with profound hearing loss of more than 90 dB, patients retain the ability to perceive some sounds.

Symptoms of total hearing loss

The most immediate symptom of total hearing loss is the inability to perceive any kind of sound, regardless of how loud they are. If deafness is present in infancy, the child will be deaf-mute, and the only sounds they will be able to make will be incomprehensable shouts, or noises when crying or laughing.

What causes deafness?

Some of the causes of deafness include:

Hereditary disorders

Some types of hearing loss are hereditary, which means parents pass on affected genes to their children. Most commonly, hereditary hearing loss is due to malformations of the inner ear.

Prenatal exposure to disease

A baby may be born deaf or with hearing problems if they are exposed to certain diseases in utero, including rubella, influenza and mumps. Other factors that are thought to cause congenital deafness include exposure to methyl mercury and medications such as quinine.


Loud noises (such as machinery or music), particularly prolonged exposure in either the workplace or a recreational setting, can damage the important organs inside the ear in the long term. If you are standing beside someone, yet have to shout to be heard, then that environment is probably loud enough to be damaging your ears. You can protect against this by reducing your exposure to loud noise and wearing ear protection such as ear muffs or ear plugs.


Certain diseases can cause hearing loss, including meningitis, mumps, cytomegalovirus and chickenpox. Severe cases of jaundice can also cause hearing loss.

How to treat anacusis

Total deafness can only be diagnosed by a specialist. Anyone who suspects that they may be suffering from anacusis must immediately make an appointment to undergo a complete audiometric hearing test, which will determine the condition of the middle and inner ear, the ear canal and their hearing thresholds. The treatment method will depend on whether the deafness is unilateral or bilateral, and will take into account the possibility of reversing the damage suffered by the ear.

A man and a woman at a Bay Audiology clinic

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If you are worried about your hearing, or that of a loved one, book an appointment with one of our specialists today to check your hearing health. At Bay Audiology we are here to help determine which type of hearing loss you have, how it was caused and what can be done to help.

Unilateral hearing loss

When hearing is within normal limits in one ear but the other ear is affected, the term used to describe this is unilateral hearing loss, but can also be referred to as “one-sided hearing loss”.

Unilateral hearing loss can be either a reduced or complete inability to hear out of one ear. Many who suffer from this type of hearing impairment have difficulty determining the direction of sound, and struggle to separate background noise and speech.

Bilateral hearing loss

Bilateral hearing loss, or, “double-sided hearing loss” means a reduced ability to hear in not one, but both ears. The continuum of hearing loss covers a range of levels – from mild to profound to anacusis (total hearing loss).

Double-sided hearing loss impairs both ears, although possibly at different levels. Most people have one ear that hears better than the other.

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