Hearing your eyeballs move? New technology improves diagnosis of superior semicircular canal dehiscence (SSCD).

Invitation to participate in research study.

Jim* (48) from Johannesburg shares the following story:

For a long time I felt dizzy on a regular basis, and experienced other symptoms that I didn’t even think were related. Family members and doctors were equally puzzled, and these were some of the responses I received:
“You say you can hear your eyeballs move?!
Loud sounds make your head spin?!
You actually feel dizzy when you blow your nose or lift something heavy?!”
I went from one doctor to another, used several types of medication with no improvement, underwent expensive testing, was fitted with a hearing aid, and even underwent surgery to explore the inside of my ear.
Eventually I convinced myself to try to live with my condition, until an Ear-, Nose- and Throat Specialist (ENT) finally diagnosed me with Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence or SSCD… What..??
It turned out that there was a small hole in the bone that covers a part of my inner ear, the semicircular canal, which caused my unusual symptoms.
The good news was that simple surgery reversed the condition, which enabled me to once again live the quality life I was used to.
If only the diagnosis was made sooner…
* Pseudonym

Does Jim’s story sound familiar?

Superior semicircular canal dehiscence
Figure1. White arrow indication the superior semicircular canal dehiscence

New research, using simple technology, is aiming to fill the gap between accurate diagnosis and expensive, sometimes unnecessary testing. This could lead to faster and more accurate diagnosis and a reduction of unnecessary medication, tests and surgery, while guiding the medical professional to make the correct decisions regarding further testing and treatment.

What is this technology called?

Wideband Acoustic Immittance (WAI) is a procedure similar to traditional tympanometry, which is a middle ear test that forms a routine part of audiological testing. The added benefit of WAI is that it tests a wide frequency range, providing more detailed information on the functioning of the middle ear system than traditional tympanometry.

Since SSCD is by definition an opening or thinning of the bone that covers the semicircular canal in the inner ear, pressure that is normally confined to the inner ear now escapes through this opening, thereby affecting the mobility of the middle ear system. This mobility can be measured using WAI testing. Figure 1 illustrates the position of the opening in the inner ear.

Used as a screening tool in the office of the audiologist or ENT, it can provide valuable information in conjunction with the audiogram, case history and tuning fork tests. The medical professional will then use this information to make important decisions regarding further testing and treatment.

However, additional research is still required to strengthen the pool of normative data that has already started to emerge, and to establish a WAI pattern distinctive to an ear with confirmed SSCD. Such research will help to promote the regular use of WAI as a screening tool when SSCD is suspected.

What does the study entail?

If you have been diagnosed with SSCD and you have not yet received any ear surgery, we would like to invite you to participate in this ground-breaking study. Testing will take about 30 minutes and is not painful or harmful in any way and participation is  voluntary and can be terminated at any stage. As in all medical research patient confidentiality will be respected to the utmost.

If you are a medical professional and you are aware of individuals with confirmed SSCD, we encourage you to inform them of the research study. For patients who suspect that they may have SSCD, we advise that you contact your ENT specialist for an appointment.

For more information

Please contact Hendriena Pieterse, Audiologist and Masters student, University of Pretoria at: