The Effect of Noise Exposure on the Cervical Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential

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Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of noise exposure on the cervical vestibular evoked myogenic potential (cVEMP) in individuals with asymmetric noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss (NIHL).

Design: A cross-sectional observational study was used to compare cVEMP characteristics in 43 individuals with a history of noise exposure greater in one ear (e.g., the left ear of a right-handed rifle shooter) and asymmetric sensorineural hearing loss consistent with the history of noise exposure and in 14 age-matched controls. The characteristics of hearing loss were examined further for the noise-exposed participants with abnormal cVEMPs and the noise-exposed participants with normal cVEMPs.

Results: Thirty-three percent of the noise-exposed participants had abnormal cVEMPs, whereas cVEMPs were present and symmetrical in 100% of the age-matched controls, and cVEMP threshold was greater in the noise-exposed group than in the control group. Abnormal cVEMPs occurred most often in the ears with poorer hearing (or greater NIHL), and the noise-exposed participants who had abnormal cVEMPs had poorer high-frequency pure-tone thresholds (greater NIHL) and greater interaural high-frequency pure-tone threshold differences than the noise-exposed participants with normal cVEMPs.

Conclusions: These findings are consistent with previous studies that suggest that the sacculocollic pathway may be susceptible to noise-related damage. There is emerging evidence that the severity of NIHL is associated with the presence or absence of cVEMPs.