Association between Hearing Loss and Saccular Dysfunction in Older Individuals

Maria Geraldine Zuniga, Roni E. Dinkes, Marcela Davalos-Bichara, John P. Carey, Michael C. Schubert, W. Michael King, Jeremy Walston, Yuri Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: 1) Describe the association between hearing loss and dysfunction of each of the 5 vestibular end-organs-the horizontal, superior, and posterior semicircular canals; saccule; and utricle-in older individuals. 2) Evaluate whether hearing loss and vestibular end-organ deficits share any risk factors. STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING: Academic medical center. PATIENTS: Fifty-one individuals age 70 years or older. INTERVENTIONS: Audiometry, head-thrust dynamic visual acuity (htDVA), sound-evoked cervical vestibular-evoked myogenic potential (cVEMP), and tap-evoked ocular VEMP (oVEMP). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Audiometric pure-tone averages (PTA), htDVA LogMAR scores as a measure of semicircular canal function in each canal plane, and cVEMP and oVEMP amplitudes as a measure of saccular and utricular function, respectively. RESULTS: We observed a significant correlation between hearing loss at high frequencies and reduced cVEMP amplitudes (or reduced saccular function; r = -0.37, p < 0.0001) in subjects age 70 years or older. In contrast, hearing loss was not associated with oVEMP amplitudes (or utricular function), or htDVA LogMAR scores (or semicircular canal function) in any of the canal planes. Age and noise exposure were significantly associated with measures of both cochlear and saccular dysfunction. CONCLUSION: The concomitant decline in the cochlear and saccular function associated with aging may reflect their common embryologic origin in the pars inferior of the labyrinth. Noise exposure seems to be related to both saccular and cochlear dysfunction. These findings suggest a potential benefit of screening individuals with presbycusis-particularly those with significant noise exposure history-for saccular dysfunction, which may contribute to fall risk in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1586-1592
Number of pages7
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Hearing loss
  • Noise exposure
  • Otolith
  • Vestibular-evoked myogenic potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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