Vertebrobasilar occlusive disorders presenting as sudden sensorineural hearing loss.Laryngoscope 2004; 114(2):327-32L
Isolated sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) has been rarely related to vertebrobasilar occlusive disorders (VBOD). This is an important issue for both neurologists and otolaryngologists, since the management and prognosis of this type of hearing loss widely differs from that of hearing loss from other causes.
To describe the clinical characteristics and report the incidence of SSHL related to VBOD.
Retrospective analysis of clinical charts from 333 patients admitted for SSHL in a large ear, nose, and throat emergency tertiary care center from 1999 to 2002.
Four cases (1.2%) of VBOD as the unique cause of SSHL were diagnosed among 333 patients. The most typical features of these cases were the presence of one of the following characteristics: (1) bilateral SSHL, (2) associated occipital or posterior nuchal pain, and (3) the occurrence of delayed neurologic deficits. The underlying vascular disease affected the vertebral arteries: dissection in two cases and atherosclerosis in two other cases. The audiometric features of hearing loss were endocochlear in one case, of both types in one case, and unknown in two cases. Hearing recovered partially or completely.
Our results confirm the low incidence of SSHL related to VBOD and show that the observation of endocochlear audiometric features cannot preclude a central cause in SSHL. The clinical presentation of our cases related to VBOD emphasize that a careful follow-up of any patient with SSHL is warranted and that the presence of nuchal pain suggestive of arterial dissection in younger subjects, a past history of atherosclerosis or embolism in older patients, or the occurrence of delayed associated neurologic symptoms should be considered with particular caution in this situation.