We reviewed the MR examinations of 167 patients who presented over a 3-year period with a chief symptom of hearing loss and/or tinnitus. In 14 of these patients the only MR abnormality was the presence of multiple parenchymal high-signal foci on T2-weighted images. Nine of the 14 had clinical evidence of multiple sclerosis; the remaining five had no clinical evidence of multiple sclerosis. Lesions in the auditory pathways, potentially responsible for the patients' symptoms, were identified in only five cases. We recommend T2-weighted images of the whole brain in addition to T1-weighted images of the internal auditory canals and cerebellopontine angles in patients with hearing loss. In some patients, lesions found at higher levels in the periventricular white matter may provide the only clue to the origin of auditory abnormalities.