Sudden hearing loss as an early detector of multiple sclerosis: A systematic review

A. D.I. Stadio, L. Dipietro, M. Ralli, F. Meneghello, A. Minni, A. Greco, M. R. Stabile, E. Bernitsas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (S-SNHL) may be an early symptom of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MATERIALS AND METHODS: A systematic review was conducted using the following keywords: “Multiple sclerosis, hearing loss, sudden hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, magnetic resonance imaging, otoacoustic emission, auditory brainstem responses, white matter lesions, sensorineural hearing loss, symptoms of MS and otolaryngology, nerve disease and MS”. Only the articles that included results of at least one auditory test and MRI were considered. We evaluated the prevalence of SNHL in patients with MS, the presence of different forms of SNHL (S-SNHL and Progressive SNHL (P-SNHL)) and their correlation with the stage of MS, the results of elec-trophysiological tests, and the location (if any) of MS lesions as detected by white matter hyper-intensities in the MRI. RESULTS: We reviewed a total of 47 articles, which included 29 case reports, 6 prospective studies, 6 cohort studies, 4 case-control studies, and 2 retrospective studies. 25% of patients suffered from SNHL. S-SNHL typically occurred in the early stage of the disease (92% of patients) and was the only presenting symptom in 43% of female subjects. Instead, P-SNHL occurred in the late stage of MS (88% of patients). Auditory Brainstem Responses (ABR) were abnormal in all MS patients with S-SNHL. When S-SNHL appeared during the early stage of the disease, MS lesions were found in the brain in 60% of patients and in the Internal Auditory Canal in 40% of patients. ABR remained abnormal after recovery. CONCLUSIONS: S-SNHL can be an early manifestation of MS and should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of this condition, especially in women. The pathophysiology can be explained by the involvement of microglia attacking the central and/or peripheral auditory pathways as indicated by WMHs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4611-4624
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Auditory findings
  • Disease onset
  • Hearing loss
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sudden hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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