Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) originating from the posterior semicircular canal (pSCC) is a common vestibular disorder that is easy to diagnose and usually easy to treat. The majority of patients with BPPV have no known inner ear disease; they have "primary" or "idiopathic" BPPV. However, a minority does have objective evidence of an inner ear disease on the same side as the BPPV and this group has "secondary" or "symptomatic" BPPV. Previous publications differ on the prevalence of secondary BPPV and about the types of inner ear diseases capable of causing it. In order to determine what proportion of patients have secondary as opposed to primary BPPV and which inner ear diseases are capable of causing secondary BPPV, we searched our database for the 10-year period from 1988 to 1997 and found a total of 2847 patients with BPPV. Of these, 81 (3%) had definite pSCC-BPPV secondary to an ipsilateral inner ear disease. Sixteen had Menière's disease, 24 had an acute unilateral peripheral vestibulopathy, 12 had a chronic unilateral peripheral vestibulopathy, 21 had chronic bilateral peripheral vestibulopathy and 8 had unilateral sensorineural hearing loss. It seems that any inner ear disease that detaches otoconia and yet does not totally destroy pSCC function can cause BPPV and that a case can be made for audiometry and caloric testing in all patients with BPPV.