The association of X-linked mixed deafness with stapes gusher has been recognized for 20 years, and imaging studies by polytomography have shown dilatation of the lateral end of the internal auditory meatus (IAM) in some cases. We have made genetic linkage studies in 7 pedigrees in whom deafness was inherited in an X-linked manner. All patients had a full range of audiometric and vestibular function tests. Thin section high resolution CT in two planes was used to assess the state of the middle and inner ears. We found a distinctive inner ear deformity in some of the deaf males characterised not only by a wide bulbous IAM but more importantly, by deficient or absent bone between the lateral end of the IAM and the basal turn of the cochlea. We believe that this results in a communication between the subarachnoid space in the IAM and the perilymph in the cochlea, leading to perilymphatic hydrops and a "gusher" if the stapes is disturbed. Moreover, some of the obligate female carriers seem to have a milder form of the same anomaly associated with slight hearing loss. Genetic studies on some of the deaf males with apparently normal inner ear anatomy suggest a different locus on the X chromosome and hence a different pathogenesis for the deafness.