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Safety and Clinical Performance of Acoustic Reflex Tests

Hunter, Lisa L.; Ries, Dennis T.; Schlauch, Robert S.; Levine, Samuel C.; Ward, W. Dixon

Original Articles

Objective: Safety and effectiveness of acoustic reflex tests are important issues because these tests are widely applied to screen for retrocochlear pathology. Previous studies have reported moderately high sensitivity and specificity for detection of acoustic neuroma. However, there have been reports of possible iatrogenic hearing loss resulting from acoustic reflex threshold (ART) and decay (ARD) tests. This study assessed safety and clinical performance of ART tests for detection of acoustic neuroma.

Design: We report a case in which ARD testing resulted in a significant bilateral permanent threshold shift. This case was the impetus for us to investigate the clinical utility of ART and ARD tests. We analyzed sensitivity and specificity of ART, as well as asymmetry in pure-tone thresholds (PTT) for detection of acoustic neuroma in 56 tumor and 108 non-tumor ears.

Results and Conclusions: Sensitivity and specificity were higher for PTT asymmetry than for ART. Ipsilateral ART at 1000 Hz had poor sensitivity and specificity for detection of acoustic neuroma, and involves some potential risk to residual hearing for presentation levels higher than 115 dB SPL. Approximately half of the acoustic neuroma group had ipsilateral ARTs that would require administration of ARD tests at levels exceeding 115 dB SPL. Therefore, we conclude that PTT asymmetry is a more effective test for detection of acoustic neuroma, and involves no risk to residual hearing. Future studies of contralateral reflex threshold and ARD in combination with PTT asymmetry are recommended.

Department of Otolaryngology (L.L.H., R.S.S., S.C.L.) and Department of Communication Disorders (L.L.H., D.T.R., R.S.S.), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Submitted posthumously by his colleagues (W.D.W.).

Received April 13, 1999; accepted August 25, 1999

Address for correspondence: Lisa L. Hunter, University of Minnesota, Department of Otolaryngology, Box 396 Mayo, 420 Delaware St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.