What Is a Perilymph Fistula?

Posted in: Hearing News  |  August 3, 2012 
What Is a Perilymph Fistula?

The inner ear is a delicate part of the body’s hearing center. A thin membrane – known as the oval or round window – separates the inner from middle ear and prevents a fluid called perilymph from leaking outward.

When the body experiences trauma, a perilymph fistula can result: a tear to the membrane that allows the fluid to leak into the middle ear, resulting in hearing trouble or loss. These fistulas generally result from head injuries but can also stem from barotrauma (complications from scuba-diving or airplane pressure) or occur during childbirth or extreme exercise.

Symptoms of a perilymph fistula include:

  • Ear pressure
  • Hearing loss
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus

Sometimes, diagnosing perilymph fistulas proves difficult since symptoms coincide with other inner-ear problems, like Meniere’s disease. The fistulas can be pointed out by CT scans or MRIs, along with other specific, doctor-ordered tests.

To treat this type of fistula, doctors often prescribe strict bed rest to allow the body time to mend. Bed rest or activity restriction might be recommended for as long as six months, if symptoms are showing signs of improvement. During that time, patients sometimes use medications to treat symptoms of the fistula, though the medicines don’t actively heal the tear.

Another more intense option – tissue-graft surgery – can prove helpful to patients whose symptoms don’t improve enough. Surgery isn’t a foolproof option, but about 90 percent of patients showed improved or stable hearing abilities after having operations, according to a study reported by the American Hearing Research Foundation.

If you notice hearing problems, vertigo or any other symptom associated with this condition, call our office anytime. We’ll be glad to help you manage your symptoms – and find a plan for recovery.