Randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial on the safety and efficacy of continuous intratympanic dexamethasone delivered via a round window catheter for severe to profound sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss after failure of systemic therapy

Laryngoscope. 2009 Feb;119(2):359-69. doi: 10.1002/lary.20074.


Objectives: To study the safety and efficacy of continuous intratympanic dexamethasone-phosphate (Dex-P) for severe to profound sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing (ISSHL) or sudden idiopathic anacusis after failure of systemic therapy.

Study design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled multicenter trial.

Methods: Patients with ISSHL and insufficient recovery (mean 4PTA = 97 dB HL) after systemic high dose glucocorticoid therapy received either Dex-P (4 mg/ml) or placebo (NaCl 0.9%) continuously applied for 14 days into the round window niche via a temporarily implanted catheter. For ethical reasons, intratympanic treatment was continued with Dex-P in all patients for another 14 days after the placebo-controlled study period. According to a two-step adaptive study design an interim analysis was performed after inclusion of 23 patients.

Results: Intention-to-treat analysis for the primary outcome criterion (4PTA: 0.5-3 kHz) during the placebo controlled study period (14 days) showed an average hearing improvement in the treatment group of 13.9 dB (SD: 21.3) and in the placebo group of 5.4 dB (SD: 10.4). This difference in hearing improvement between the two groups (mean: 8.4 dB, SD: 17.0, 95% CI: -7.1-24.1) was statistically not significant (p = .26). Of the secondary outcome parameters, the largest benefit of local salvage therapy was found for maximum speech discrimination with an improvement of 24.4% (SD: 32.0) in the treatment and 4.5% (SD: 7.6) in the placebo group (p = 0.07). After a 3 month follow-up period (i.e. after all patients received intratympanic Dex-P) hearing improvement in the two groups was very similar. No serious adverse events were observed. Sample size calculation after the interim analysis resulted in stopping of the trial.

Conclusions: The tendency toward better hearing improvement in the treatment group, the rather conservative inclusion criteria, the limited placebo-controlled observation period and the absence of serious adverse events supports further investigation local inner ear drug delivery as a first or second line treatment option for ISSHL.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00335920.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Audiometry
  • Catheterization
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / drug therapy*
  • Hearing Loss, Sudden / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Round Window, Ear
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Placebos
  • Dexamethasone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00335920