Context: Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss has been treated with oral corticosteroids for more than 30 years. Recently, many patients' symptoms have been managed with intratympanic steroid therapy. No satisfactory comparative effectiveness study to support this practice exists.
Objective: To compare the effectiveness of oral vs intratympanic steroid to treat sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
Design, setting, and patients: Prospective, randomized, noninferiority trial involving 250 patients with unilateral sensorineural hearing loss presenting within 14 days of onset of 50 dB or higher of pure tone average (PTA) hearing threshold. The study was conducted from December 2004 through October 2009 at 16 academic community-based otology practices. Participants were followed up for 6 months.
Intervention: One hundred twenty-one patients received either 60 mg/d of oral prednisone for 14 days with a 5-day taper and 129 patients received 4 doses over 14 days of 40 mg/mL of methylprednisolone injected into the middle ear.
Main outcome measures: Primary end point was change in hearing at 2 months after treatment. Noninferiority was defined as less than a 10-dB difference in hearing outcome between treatments.
Results: In the oral prednisone group, PTA improved by 30.7 dB compared with a 28.7-dB improvement in the intratympanic treatment group. Mean pure tone average at 2 months was 56.0 for the oral steroid treatment group and 57.6 dB for the intratympanic treatment group. Recovery of hearing on oral treatment at 2 months by intention-to-treat analysis was 2.0 dB greater than intratympanic treatment (95.21% upper confidence interval, 6.6 dB). Per-protocol analysis confirmed the intention-to-treat result. Thus, the hypothesis of inferiority of intratympanic methylprednisolone to oral prednisone for primary treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss was rejected.
Conclusion: Among patients with idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss, hearing level 2 months after treatment showed that intratympanic treatment was not inferior to oral prednisone treatment.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00097448.