Objective: In an attempt to investigate the presence of hearing loss in primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS) patients and to determine the factors that might be involved in its pathogenesis, we prospectively evaluated 45 female SS patients with a mean age of 56.8 +/- 9.23 years and a mean disease duration of 8.32 +/- 5.39 years.
Methods: Forty patients underwent a complete ear-nose-throat physical examination and audiological evaluation with: (a) pure tone audiometry thresholds at octave frequencies of 250 to 8000 Hz; (b) impedance audiometry (tympanogram, static compliance, acoustic reflexes, reflex decay; and (c) speech audiometry and auditory brainstem response where indicated. In addition, glandular and extraglandular manifestations of the disease and drug therapy were recorded. Finally, all patients were tested for the presence of autoantibodies, including: rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies, antibodies to Ro(SSA), La(SSB) nuclear antigens, anticardiolipin antibodies and antineutrophil cytoplasmatic antibodies. The results were compared with those of 40 healthy, age-matched women.
Results: We found sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in 9 patients (22.5%): 4 patients bilaterally, 4 patients in the left ear only and one in the right ear only. In all cases the site of the ear damage was cochlear. A correlation between SNHL and the duration of the disease was found, while there was no correlation with age, systemic manifestations of the disease or the presence of autoantibodies. In addition, no correlation was found between SNHL and drug therapy.
Conclusion: Approximately one-fourth of our SS patients presented SNHL of cochlear origin affecting mainly the high frequencies. This prevalence was lower than that reported by other investigators. SNHL was associated only with disease duration. Further investigation is needed to attain a better understanding of the mechanism of inner ear involvement in SS patients.