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Oncology - Otolaryngology - Radiology and Medical Imaging - Surgery

Mechanisms of Hearing Loss in Neurofibromatosis Type 2
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Author: Ashok R. Asthagiri et al.

by Ashok R. Asthagiri, Raul A. Vasquez, John A. Butman, Tianxia Wu, Keaton Morgan, Carmen C. Brewer, Kelly King, Chris Zalewski, H. Jeffrey Kim, Russell R. Lonser


Patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) develop bilateral cochleovestibular schwannomas (CVSs) that cause binaural deafness in most individuals. Hearing loss occurs in an unpredictable manner and the underlying mechanisms are not known. To gain insight into the pathophysiologic basis for hearing loss in NF2, we performed a prospective cross-sectional study of untreated ears in NF2 patients.


One hundred consecutive NF2 patients in a prospective natural history study were included. Clinical and audiometric data were analyzed for treatment naïve ears. In addition to standard MR-imaging sequences, alterations in intralabyrinthine protein content were determined utilizing high resolution FLAIR, the presence of cochlear aperture obstruction was determined by examining 3D T2 sequences, and endolymphatic hydrops was identified on delayed post-contrast FLAIR sequences.


Eighty-nine ears harboring 84 untreated CVSs in 56 consecutive NF2 patients (age 30±16 years) were analyzed. Thirty-four (38%) ears had varying degrees of hearing loss. Elevated intralabyrinthine protein was identified in 70 (75%) ears by FLAIR MR-imaging and was strongly associated with the presence of hearing loss (32/34 hearing loss ears; 94%)(Fisher's exact test; P?=?.005). Elevated intralabyrinthine protein was associated with the presence of CVS-associated cochlear aperture obstruction (64 of 67 ears with elevated protein; 96%)(Fisher's exact test; P<0.0001) in both normal and hearing loss ears. Elevated intralabyrinthine protein was not identified in ears without CVS (5 ears). While larger tumor size was associated with hearing loss (P?=?0.006), 16 hearing loss ears (47%) harbored CVSs less than 0.5 cm3, including 14 ears (88%) with block of the cochlear aperture and elevated protein.


These findings are consistent with a model in which hearing loss develops as a result of cochlear aperture obstruction and accumulation of intralabyrinthine protein. MRI based identification of elevated intralabyrinthine protein may help identify the ear at-risk for developing hearing loss.