Objective: The authors describe symptoms and population characteristics in subjects who can modulate the loudness and/or pitch of their tinnitus by eye movements.
Study design: Data were obtained by questionnaire.
Setting: The study was conducted at a university center and a tertiary care center.
Patients: Respondents had the self-reported ability to modulate their tinnitus with eye movements.
Results: Ninety-one subjects reported having gaze-evoked tinnitus after posterior fossa surgery involving the eighth nerve. Eighty-seven of them underwent removal of a vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma), two had bilateral eighth nerve tumors (one underwent bilateral tumor removal; the other unilateral tumor removal), one underwent removal of a cholesteatoma, and one underwent removal of a glomus jugulare tumor. Seventeen subjects who had never had posterior fossa surgery reported gaze-evoked tinnitus. Of those with vestibular schwannomas, tumor size ranged from small (<2 cm) to large (>4 cm). The gender distribution was 48.3% male and 51.7% female. In 77% of patients, the gaze-evoked tinnitus was localized to the surgical ear or side of head; 21.8% had bilateral tinnitus that was louder in the surgical ear or side of head. In 86 of 87 subjects, loudness of tinnitus changed with eye movement. Eye movement away from the central (eyes centered) position increased the loudness of tinnitus in all 86 subjects who responded to this question. Seventy-three of 85 (85.9%) patients indicated that pitch changed with eye movement, with pitch increasing in 64/72 (88.9%) of them. Eighty-three of 87 (95.4%) patients reported total loss of hearing in the surgical ear. Seventy of 83 (84.3%) patients reported facial nerve problems immediately after surgery, 52 of 87 (60%) reported persistent facial weakness, and 16 of 87 (18.4%) patients reported persistent double vision. In those 17 subjects with gaze-evoked tinnitus and no posterior fossa surgery, the majority of respondents (14/17, 82.4%) were male.
Conclusions: Gaze-evoked tinnitus after cerebellar pontine angle surgery is more common than was previously believed. In addition, posterior fossa surgery is not a prerequisite for the development of gaze-evoked tinnitus. It is likely that gaze-evoked tinnitus is a manifestation of functional reorganization. Gaze-evoked tinnitus could result from an unmasking of brain regions that respond to multiple stimulus/response modalities, and/or from anomalous cross-modality interactions, perhaps caused by collateral sprouting.