A relative of one of our staff has recently been experiencing a very disruptive set of symptoms related to the ears. This 45 year-old female experiences extreme episodes of dizziness (usually spinning) following exposure to loud noises or coughing/sneezing/straining experiences. Loud noises also sound distorted, and her own voice sounds louder in her head. Her life has changed drastically, to say the least.

She has been diagnosed with Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence (SSCD). This rare condition is caused by a malformation in which bone is missing at the border of one of the semicircular canals. When this happens, the inner ear fluid motion that accompanies loud noises or internal changes in pressure, such as coughing, causes the balance organs near the canal to function incorrectly. The symptoms listed above typically follow. Other common symptoms are low-frequency conductive hearing loss in the affected ear, constant dizziness, inability of the eyes to focus on stationary targets and the illusion of motion in visual targets.

Diagnosis is made based on the symptoms, as well as various diagnostic tools. Audiometry, acoustic reflexes, high-resolution CT imaging and specialized vestibular testing can confirm this condition and guide treatment.

More severe cases require treatment if normal life or common activities are disrupted. Surgery is an option that can relieve symptoms. The missing bone region can be “plugged”, which prevents the fluid and surrounding membrane from bulging during loud sounds or changes in internal pressure. All good outcomes begin with a patient who pays attention to symptoms and seeks help. A careful analysis of symptoms, clinical signs and diagnostic results can result in correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Do not wait if you or someone you know is experiencing unusual problems with hearing, balance or dizziness. As always, we want to keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.