This study investigates the most appropriate audiometric criterion in deciding which patients with asymmetric hearing loss should be referred to MRI to exclude a lesion in the cerebellopontine angle (CPA). Careful selection of patients could improve resource utilization while preventing unnecessary investigations with accompanying burden and costs.Study Design:
Retrospective case review.Setting:
Tertiary referral center.Patients:
Of all the patients who were referred to our clinic between 1997 and 2012, the records were reviewed of those who underwent pure-tone audiometry, auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing, and had a Gadolinium-enhanced MRI of the CPA.Intervention:
Regarding interaural pure-tone threshold differences at single or multiple (averaged) frequencies, we assigned multiple possible cut-off values (dB) defining an aberrant result, suggestive for CPA lesions. Results were compared with MRI to calculate sensitivity and specificity for every cut-off value. These were visualized as ROC curves enabling qualitative comparison. Added value of ABR was assessed as well.Main Outcome Measures:
Sensitivity and specificity of various criteria to decide which patients with asymmetric hearing loss to send to MRI to exclude a CPA lesion.Results:
In total, 1016 records were reviewed. Two hundred ninety-four subjects (29%) were diagnosed with a CPA lesion on MRI. Sensitivity and specificity for audiometry results differed greatly depending on the predefined cut-off value for hearing threshold difference (40–95% sensitivity and 20–90% specificity). Best ROC curves were obtained when threshold differences at two or three higher frequencies were averaged. Adding results of ABR to the threshold criterion yielded a slightly better ROC curve, although sensitivity decreased.Conclusions:
The best criterion to decide which patient with asymmetric hearing loss should be referred to MRI is based on the average bone conduction threshold difference at multiple (two or three) higher frequencies. The extent of the average threshold difference between ears that is used as a cutoff will mainly depend on treatment modality and (eventually) on resource costs and on the burden of Gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. Results of ABR can have little added value when only patients with a unilateral abnormal ABR at the worse hearing ear are referred to MRI. However, a lower sensitivity must then be accepted.