Hearing loss in hydrocephalus: a review, with focus on mechanisms

David Satzer, Daniel J. Guillaume

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


While neither hydrocephalus nor cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt placement is traditionally considered in the differential diagnosis of hearing loss, there is substantial evidence that CSF circulation and pressure abnormalities can produce auditory dysfunction. Several indirect mechanisms may explain association between hydrocephalus and hearing loss, including mass effect, compromise of the auditory pathway, complications of prematurity, and genetically mediated hydrocephalus and hearing loss. Nevertheless, researchers have proposed a direct mechanism, which we term the hydrodynamic theory. In this hypothesis, the intimate relationship between CSF and inner ear fluids permits relative endolymphatic or perilymphatic hydrops in the setting of CSF pressure disturbances. CSF is continuous with perilymph, and CSF pressure changes are known to produce parallel perilymphatic pressure changes. In support of the hydrodynamic theory, some studies have found an independent association between hydrocephalus and hearing loss. Moreover, surgical shunting of CSF has been linked to both resolution and development of auditory dysfunction. The disease burden of hydrocephalus-associated hearing loss may be large, and because hydrocephalus and over-shunting are reversible, this relationship merits broader recognition. Hydrocephalic patients should be monitored for hearing loss, and hearing loss in a patient with shunted hydrocephalus should prompt further evaluation and possibly adjustment of shunt settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalNeurosurgical Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cochlear aqueduct
  • Endolymphatic hydrops
  • Hearing loss
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Shunt


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