Importance: Bilateral vestibular deficiency (BVD) causes chronic imbalance and unsteady vision and greatly increases the risk of falls; however, its effects on quality of life and economic impact are not well defined.
Objective: To quantify disease-specific and health-related quality of life, health care utilization, and economic impact on individuals with BVD in comparison with those with unilateral vestibular deficiency (UVD).
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional survey study of patients with BVD or UVD and healthy controls at an academic medical center. Vestibular dysfunction was diagnosed by means of caloric nystagmography.
Interventions: Survey questionnaire.
Main outcomes and measures: Health status was measured using the Dizziness Handicap Index (DHI) and Health Utility Index Mark 3 (HUI3). Economic burden was estimated using participant responses to questions on disease-specific health care utilization and lost productivity.
Results: Fifteen patients with BVD, 22 with UVD, and 23 healthy controls participated. In comparison with patients with UVD and controls, patients with BVD had significantly worse DHI (P < .001) and HUI3 scores. Statistically significant between-group differences were observed for overall HUI3 score (P < .001) and for specific attributes including vision, hearing, ambulation, emotion, and pain (P < .001 for all). Generalized linear model analysis of clinical variables associated with HUI3 scores after adjustment for other variables (including sex, race, education, age, and frequency of dizziness-related outpatient clinic visits) showed that the presence of UVD (P < .001) or BVD (P < .001), increased dizziness-related emergency room visits (P = .002), and increased dizziness-related missed work days (P < .001) were independently associated with worse HUI3 scores. Patients with BVD and UVD incurred estimated mean (range) annual economic burdens of $13,019 ($0-$48,830) and $3531 ($0-$48,442) per patient, respectively.
Conclusions and relevance: Bilateral vestibular deficiency significantly decreases quality of life and imposes substantial economic burdens on individuals and society. These results underscore the limits of adaptation and compensation in BVD. Furthermore, they quantify the potential benefits of prosthetic restoration of vestibular function both to these individuals and to society.