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Intern Emerg Med. 2014 Dec;9(8):825-7. doi: 10.1007/s11739-014-1130-3. Epub 2014 Sep 24.

Inner ear symptoms: can we use them to approach cardiovascular diseases?

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Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


Sensory organs are programmed to detect external stimuli, and inform about possible threats. In general, they are characterized by a complex architecture, a highly energy-requiring function, a peripheral location and a vascular supply depending on a terminal circulation usually under systemic control. Their function may be highly sensitive to more general disorders primarily involving other organs or physiological systems. Consequently, the onset of transient or persistent symptoms of impairment of sensory organs might be the expression of abnormalities in the integrity of more general systems, especially in the elderly population. In the otologic area, despite the availability of evidence supporting the negative impact of some systemic conditions negatively affecting the local blood supply at the labyrinth level, the possibility that the inner ear can reveal the presence of sub-clinical, non-otologic disorders has never been the topic of a constructive investigation. The present review summarizes the preliminary available evidence suggesting a possible negative impact of early systemic hemodynamic changes on the function of the inner ear, as well as the possibility that some audiological symptoms may play some role in the early detection of cardiovascular diseases. In particular, we hypothesize that some cardiovascular diseases may cause an impairment in correct labyrinthine function as a result of a negative interaction between systemic hemodynamic changes, a reflex activation of the autonomic nervous system, and a local vascular response. A multidisciplinary approach to the interpretation of inner ear disorders may increase the possibility of an earlier recognition and understanding of systemic dysfunctions in clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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