What is Superior Canal Dehiscence?

Superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS) is a condition that can cause problems with your balance and / or your hearing. Canal dehiscence refers to an opening (or dehiscence) in the “bone that covers one of the semicircular canals of the inner ear.” 

What Causes Superior Canal Dehiscence?

Your inner ear contains three fluid-filled loops, called the semicircular canals. These delicate canals detect the rotation of your head. 

The exact cause of superior canal dehiscence is not yet known. However, researchers believe that it could be a congenital issue. 

Johns Hopkins notes: “In very rare instances, during fetal development, the uppermost semicircular canal fails to close or thicken normally. Both normal balance and hearing depend on this canal forming a closed passageway, with sound coming in through one end (the stapes bone at the oval window) and out the other (an opening in the inner ear called the round window).”

Symptoms of Superior Canal Dehiscence

The most commonly reported symptoms of superior canal dehiscence include: 

  • Dizziness / Vertigo 
  • Autophony – where your own voice or sounds like blinking or breathing sound louder than normal 
  • Oscillopsia – the perception that your environment is moving
  • Sensitivity to loud noises
  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears

The symptoms of SCDS may come and go intermittently. Dizziness or oscillopsia may be triggered by certain things, such as a change in air pressure. Exposure to loud noises may also trigger the symptoms. Other things that may reportedly trigger symptoms include: 

  • Heavy lifting
  • Certain exercises
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing
  • Straining
  • Listening to loud sounds

Diagnosing Superior Canal Dehiscence

Unfortunately, not every patient experiences the same symptoms. This can make diagnosis difficult. In order to accurately diagnose the superior canal dehiscence, your healthcare physician may order a number of tests. These can include: 

  • CT scan of the temporal bone
  • A hearing assessment
  • Balance testing
  • Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (VEMP) test

Treating Superior Canal Dehiscence

Many people with superior canal dehiscence learn to cope with their symptoms. They incorporate lifestyle adaptations to avoid potential triggers of the symptoms. 

For some, working with a certified vestibular physical therapist can provide benefits. For others with debilitating SCDS, surgery may be an option. We recommend that you speak with your primary healthcare physician to explore the appropriate treatment that suits your lifestyle. 

Trust the Experts at Regional Hearing and Balance Center 

Do you have any more questions? The hearing care professionals at Regional Hearing and Balance Center would be happy to help. Contact us today to request your appointment with our hearing care professionals.

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