OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the modifications in the mechanical properties of the middle ear in rheumatoid arthritis by assessing its resonance frequency. METHODS: Thirty patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) aged 20 to 68 years (mean age 45.8 +/- 12.4 yrs) were investigated by multiple frequency tympanometry and their data were compared with those obtained in a control group of 48 subjects aged from 19 to 65 years. RESULTS: Normal values, calculated at the 95th percentile from the control group, ranged from 800 to 1250 Hz. Eleven RA patients (36.6%) displayed abnormal resonance values. These findings were monolateral in 9 patients and bilateral in 2 (in all a total of 13 ears). Nine out of 13 ears with abnormal multiple frequency tympanometry data were characterized by an increase in resonance and 4 by a decrease. CONCLUSION: These findings were attributed to abnormal acoustic impedence of the middle ear and indicate a possible involvement of the ossicular diarthroses in RA. Our study suggests that RA may involve the incudo-malleolar and incudo-stapedial joints, altering the ossicular mechanisms in response to static air pressure modifications.
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