Cochlear Dead Regions in Sporadic Unilateral Vestibular Schwannomas Using the Threshold-Equalizing Noise Test

Audiol Neurootol. 2019;24(6):271-278. doi: 10.1159/000503164. Epub 2019 Oct 30.


Background: Vestibular schwannoma (VS) is a benign intracranial neoplasm originating in the Schwann cells of the vestibular nerve. Despite its origin, the most common symptom is sensorineural hearing loss which is presented in more than 90% of patients. The underlying pathophysiology of this hearing loss has not been fully understood.

Objective: To assess the in vivo function of cochlear inner hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons in VS, cochlear dead regions (DRs) were evaluated via the threshold-equalizing noise (TEN) test in untreated VS patients.

Method: Untreated patients diagnosed with sporadic unilateral VS and normal contralesional hearing were enrolled from July 2011 to June 2016. Audiometric evaluation including TEN tests were performed. Based on the magnetic resonance findings, characteristics of individual tumors were assessed.

Results: The average pure-tone threshold (word recognition score [WRS]) of 23 enrolled patients was 42.7 dB (76.1%). Nineteen DRs (11.8% of 161 tested frequencies) were found in 8 patients (34.8% of enrolled cases). Among the intracanalicular (IAC) tumors, 6 out of 10 ears (60%) carried DRs, while 2 of 13 (15.4%) showed DRs among the cerebellopontine angle (CPA) lesions (p = 0.039). Pure-tone thresholds and WRS were not different between the two groups. Logistic regression analysis showed that the tumor location, IAC versus CPA, was significantly associated with DRs (p = 0.041, Nagelkerke R2 = 0.471), whereas age, sex, tumor size, distance from the tumor to the cochlea, T2-weighted hypointensity on the MRI and pure-tone thresholds showed no significance.

Conclusions: Cochlear DRs are detected in hearing losses associated with unilateral sporadic VS using the TEN test. Individual DRs were detected variously in high, mid, or low frequencies. In our preliminary data, IAC tumors showed a higher number of DRs than CPA tumors despite similar average hearing thresholds. Further studies including longitudinal follow-up of hearing as well as change in DRs may provide useful information about VS patients.

Keywords: Acoustic neuroma; Cerebellopontine angle tumor; Dead region; Hearing loss; Threshold-equalizing noise test.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Cochlea / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / etiology
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / physiopathology*
  • Hearing Tests / methods
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / complications
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / diagnostic imaging
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / physiopathology*
  • Noise*
  • Spiral Ganglion / physiopathology