Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Associated with Slow Blood Flow of the Vertebrobasilar System

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To determine the characteristics of sudden deafness associated with slow blood flow (SBF) within the vertebrobasilar arteries, we evaluated 57 patients with sudden deafness using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We detected SBF in 12 (21%) patients, predominantly men over 50 years of age. A second MRI performed in 5 patients 2 months after the onset of symptoms showed recovery of blood flow. All 12 patients complained of vertigo. Audiological and neurotologic tests suggested that hearing loss mainly involved the inner ear. Our findings suggest that unless central lesions are detected, headache, hypoesthesia of the external ear canal, and electronystagmographic abnormalities are signs of SBF. Because sudden deafness may recur in patients who have SBF, they should be monitored and treated to prevent recurrence.

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