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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1998 Nov;65(5):670-8.

Vestibular hypersensitivity to clicks is characteristic of the Tullio phenomenon.

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Department of Neurology, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



The frequency of pathologically reduced click thresholds for vestibular activation was explored in patients with the Tullio phenomenon (sound induced vestibular activation).


Seven patients (eight affected ears) with symptoms of oscillopsia and unsteadiness in response to loud external sounds or to the patient's own voice were examined. In all but one patient, vestibular hypersensitivity to sound was confirmed by the fact that eye movements could be produced by pure tones of 110 dB intensity or less. Conventional diagnostic imaging was normal in all cases and three of the patients had normal middle ears at surgical exploration. Thresholds for click evoked vestibulocollic reflexes were compared with those of a group of normal subjects. Galvanic stimulation was used as a complementary method of examining the excitability of vestibular reflexes.


All the patients showed a reduced threshold for click activation of vestibulocollic reflexes arising from the affected ear. Short latency EMG responses to clicks were also present in posterior neck and leg muscles, suggesting that these muscles receive vestibular projections. Galvanic stimulation produced a normal pattern of body sway in four of the five patients tested.


A pathologically reduced threshold to click activation (< or = 70 dB NHL (average normal hearing level)) seems to be a consistent feature of the Tullio phenomenon and a useful diagnostic criterion. This in turn is most likely to be due to an increased effectiveness of the transmission of sound energy to saccular receptors. Activation of these receptors probably contributed to the vestibular symptoms experienced by the patients.

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