Isolated cochlear neuritis from varicella reactivation mimicking a vestibular schwannoma

World J Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016 Dec 1;2(3):181-184. doi: 10.1016/j.wjorl.2016.10.001. eCollection 2016 Sep.


We present a case of a patient with progressive unilateral sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus with internal auditory canal enhancement on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) secondary to isolated cochlear neuritis from varicella reactivation. MRI following antiviral treatment showed resolution of enhancement. Varicella reactivation is commonly seen in the form of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which is known to produce abnormal MRI enhancement from facial and vestibulocochlear neuritis; however, its characteristic clinical signs aid the diagnosis. This case is unique in that the only manifestation of varicella infection was unilateral hearing loss. This case outlines the importance of maintaining a broad differential diagnosis in the evaluation of unilateral hearing loss as well as recognizing the limited specificity of MRI.

Keywords: Acoustic neuroma; Ramsay Hunt syndrome; Varicella zoster virus; Vestibular neuritis; Vestibular schwannoma.