✓ Among 186 patients with preoperative hearing, a total of 189 acoustic neurinomas were removed through a lateral suboccipital approach with anatomical preservation of the cochlear nerve. Functional hearing was preserved in 92 (49%) of these patients; despite anatomical preservation of the cochlear nerve, deafness was the result in 51 % of the series. Many factors have been considered to cause hearing loss in patients whose cochlear nerve was intact after surgery; these include nerve retraction, nerve or cochlear ischemia, overheating and vibration damage to the nerve, and opening of the labyrinth.
To evaluate the significance of injury to the labyrinth in postoperative hearing loss, a prospective study was undertaken. High-resolution computerized tomography studies through the inner ear with bone algorithm were performed pre- and postoperatively. The postoperative status of the labyrinth was classified into three patterns: intact, fenestrated, and widely opened. Injury to the labyrinth occurred in 30% of the cases. The most frequently injured labyrinth structures were the crus commune of the posterior and superior semicircular canals (52%), the posterior semicircular canal (23%). the vestibule (21%), and the superior semicircular canal (4%).
A statistically significant relationship was found between injury to the labyrinth and deafness, elevated thresholds, and lower discrimination values at pure-tone audiograms and speech audiometry (p < 0.0001). The degree of the injury (comparison between fenestration and wide opening of the labyrinth) was also significantly related to postoperative deafness (p < 0.0001). Disturbance of the inner-ear fluids was considered to be the cause of the hearing loss. In 12 patients labyrinth injury was not associated with deafness. This finding may support the existence of mechanisms of cochlear protection. The homeostatic function of the endolymphatic sac was considered to play an important role in recovery of damaged hearing in these 12 cases.