Evidence in the literature emphasizes the role of the immune system in disorders of the inner ear and eustachian tube. We initially investigated the presence of inhalant allergy in selected patients seen for otologic problems by means of a screening radioallergosorbent test (RAST), using either a microscreen or a limited antigen panel. This study analyzed the results of tests performed over a 2-year period on 186 patients seen by one of us (WLM) for treatment of vertigo (66%), tinnitus (63%), hearing loss (49%), aural fullness (48%), Meniere's quadrad (27%), balance disturbance other than true vertigo (21%), and eustachian tube dysfunction (4%). We found an incidence of immunoglobulin E-mediated hypersensitivity of nearly 40% in a patient population selected solely for neuro-otologic symptoms and not for sinonasal symptoms. This figure is more than double that quoted for the general population. We also found a surprisingly high incidence of mold antigen atopy in this selected population. Allergy can contribute to a number of otologic symptoms, including eustachian tube dysfunction, vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, aural fullness, and nonspecific balance disturbance. Allergy also has been emphasized as an etiologic factor in a portion of patients diagnosed with Meniere's syndrome. A screening RAST, combined with clinical evaluation, appears to be an excellent tool for evaluating these patients for inhalant allergy as part of a comprehensive workup.
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