Audiology Research, Vol. 12, Pages 347-356: Lateralization Pattern of the Weber Tuning Fork Test in Longstanding Unilateral Profound Hearing Loss: Implications for Cochlear Implantation

Audiology Research doi: 10.3390/audiolres12040036

Mohamed Bassiouni
Sophia Marie Häußler
Stefan Gräbel
Agnieszka J. Szczepek
Heidi Olze

The Weber tuning fork test is a standard otologic examination tool in patients with unilateral hearing loss. Sound should typically lateralize to the contralateral side in unilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The observation that the Weber test does not lateralize in some patients with longstanding unilateral deafness has been previously described but remains poorly understood. In the present study, we conducted a retrospective analysis of the medical records of patients with unilateral profound hearing loss (single-sided deafness or asymmetric hearing loss) for at least ten years. In this patient cohort, childhood-onset unilateral profound hearing loss was significantly associated with the lack of lateralization of the Weber tuning fork test (Fisher’s exact test, p < 0.05) and the absence of tinnitus in the affected ear (Fisher’s exact test, p < 0.001). The findings may imply a central adaptation process due to chronic unilateral auditory deprivation starting before the critical period of auditory maturation. This notion may partially explain the poor outcome of adult cochlear implantation in longstanding single-sided deafness. The findings may suggest a role for the Weber test as a simple, quick, and economical tool for screening poor cochlear implant candidates, thus potentially supporting the decision-making and counseling of patients with longstanding single-sided deafness.

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