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Tullio phenomenon, sound-induced vertigo, dizziness, nausea or eye movement (nystagmus) was first described in 1929 by the Italian biologist Prof. Pietro Tullio. (1881–1941)[1][2] During his experiments on pigeons, Tullio discovered that by drilling tiny holes in the semicircular canals of his subjects, he could subsequently cause them balance problems when exposed to sound.

The cause is usually a fistula in the middle or inner ear, allowing abnormal sound-synchronized pressure changes in the balance organs.[3] Such an opening may be caused by a barotrauma (e.g. incurred when diving or flying), or may be a side effect of fenestration surgery, syphilis or Lyme disease. Patients with this disorder may also experience vertigo, imbalance and eye movement set off by changes in pressure, e.g. when nose-blowing, swallowing or when lifting heavy objects.

Tullio phenomenon is also one of the common symptoms of superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS), first diagnosed in 1998 by Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA.


  1. Tullio, Pietro: Das Ohr und die Entstehung der Sprache und Schrift. Berlin, Germany: Urban & Schwarzenberg; 1929.
  2. Tullio, Pietro: Some experiments and considerations on experimental otology and phonetics: A lecture delivered at the meeting of the "Società dei cultori delle scienze ... e naturali" of Cagliari on 1st, July 1929: L. Cappelli 1929 ASIN: B0008B2T6Y
  3. Watson et al, R.D Vestibular Hypersensitivity to sound. URL accessed on 13 January 2013.

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