Acoustic Reflex Screening of Conductive Hearing Loss for Third Window Disorders

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Abstract

Objective

This study examines the effectiveness of acoustic reflexes in screening for third window disorders (eg, superior semicircular canal dehiscence) prior to middle ear exploration for conductive hearing loss.

Study Design

Case series with chart review.

Setting

Outpatient tertiary otology center.

Subjects and Methods

A review was performed of 212 ears with acoustic reflexes, performed as part of the evaluation of conductive hearing loss in patients without evidence of chronic otitis media. The etiology of hearing loss was determined from intraoperative findings and computed tomography imaging. The relationship between acoustic reflexes and conductive hearing loss etiology was assessed.

Results

Eighty-eight percent of ears (166 of 189) demonstrating absence of all acoustic reflexes had an ossicular etiology of conductive hearing loss. Fifty-two percent of ears (12 of 23) with at least 1 detectable acoustic reflex had a nonossicular etiology. The positive and negative predictive values for an ossicular etiology were 89% and 57% when acoustic reflexes were used alone for screening, 89% and 39% when third window symptoms were used alone, and 94% and 71% when reflexes and symptoms were used together, respectively.

Conclusion

Acoustic reflex testing is an effective means of screening for third window disorders in patients with a conductive hearing loss. Questioning for third window symptoms should complement screening. The detection of even 1 acoustic reflex or third window symptom (regardless of reflex status) should prompt further workup prior to middle ear exploration.

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