The cause of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (idiopathic SSNHL)—diagnosed after excluding other causes of hearing loss, such as SSNHL associated with vestibular schwannoma (VS)—is unknown. The presumed pathogenesis of idiopathic SSNHL includes circulatory disorders (e.g., cochlear infarction). We tested the hypothesis that patients with SSNHL who are at high stroke risk will have a lower rate of VS compared to those with low stroke risk. The rationale is that the primary cause of SSNHL in patients with high stroke risk might be a circulatory disturbance. We conducted a retrospective study in six hospitals. Our sampling of SSNHL patients included those diagnosed with idiopathic SSNHL and VS-associated SSNHL. SSNHL patients who had a head MRI were stratified by severity of hearing loss and evaluated for differences in the detection rate of VS between the high-scoring CHADS2 (CHADS2-H-), an index of stroke risk, and low-scoring CHADS2 (CHADS2-L-) groups. We identified 916 patients who met the inclusion criteria. For severe hearing loss, the CHADS2-H group had a significantly lower rate of VS than the CHADS2-L group (OR 0 [95% CI 0.00–0.612]; P = 0.007). These results indirectly support the hypothesis that a primary cause of severe idiopathic SSNHL in those at high risk of stroke might be a circulatory disorder.
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