Inner-ear malformations are frequently found in patients with sensorineural hearing loss. However, isolated anomalies of the vestibular part of the inner ear are seldom described, and for this reason their impact on balance is poorly understood.
We present the case of a 38-year-old Caucasian man with recurrent vestibular complaints, with a sensation of linear tilting, but no hearing impairment. Clinical and neuro-otological examinations showed peripheral involvement of the vestibular system, while audiological investigation was within normal limits. High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging of the inner ear, with three-dimensional reconstruction, demonstrated isolated vestibular anomalies involving both the lateral semicircular canal and the utricle.
Bearing in mind this case, we speculate that isolated vestibular malformation may not be as rare as previously thought, and should be investigated with the aid of sophisticated imaging techniques. A review of the relative literature, focussing attention on the molecular aspects, is also reported.