Novel Use of Portable Audiometry to Track Hearing Fluctuations in Menière's Disease: A Pilot Study

Darren Tse, Tim Ramsay, Daniel A Lelli
Otology & Neurotology 2019, 40 (2): e130-e134

INTRODUCTION: Menière's Disease (MD) is a disorder of the inner ear consisting of episodic attacks of vertigo associated with aural fullness, tinnitus, and fluctuating hearing loss. Hearing levels in MD can often fluctuate over time, and may eventually decline permanently in a step-wise fashion. There are no current studies examining daily hearing fluctuations for prolonged periods in patients with MD. Portable audiometry has the potential to allow the patient to monitor their hearing on a daily basis without attending a center for formal audiology. The objective of this pilot study was to assess feasibility of using iPad-based audiometry on a daily basis to capture hearing fluctuations in a small sample of adult patients with active MD.

METHODS: We recruited five patients with active MD as defined by current diagnostic criteria (International Classification of Vestibular Disease 2015). "Active" MD was defined as the patient having had at least one typical Menière's episode within the last 4 weeks. Patients were trained on how to use the portable audiometer and asked to perform at least daily audiograms for 3 months. Patients were asked to manually track vertigo attacks in a diary. Qualitative feedback was obtained from each patient at each monthly visit. For each patient, individual pure tone thresholds at each frequency and pure-tone averages (PTA) were analyzed for maximum and minimum values and interquartile ranges.

RESULTS: There were four women and one man, with an average age of 49.8 years. Duration of MD ranged from 4 months to 5 years. None of the patients experienced any technical difficulties performing the testing at home. The average duration of each test was 4.2 minutes, with the longest test taking 19.2 minutes. Patients completed between 45 and 102 tests, with an average of 72. The interquartile range for the PTA ranged from 2.5 to 25 dB for affected ears, and 0 to 6.25 dB for unaffected ears with maximums ranging from 5 to 35 dB in affected ears, and 0 to 10 dB in unaffected ears.

CONCLUSIONS: Daily portable audiometry is feasible in patients with MD. Future studies are planned to further analyze hearing fluctuations in MD with respect to frequencies affected, relationship to vertigo attacks, and response to treatments. Understanding hearing fluctuations in MD may aid refinement of diagnostic criteria and improve prognostication for long-term hearing loss, with a goal of informing treatments that might improve final hearing outcome.

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