Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Auditory Neuropathy Characteristics in Children with Cochlear Nerve Deficiency

Buchman, Craig A.; Roush, Patricia A.; Teagle, Holly F. B.; Brown, Carolyn J.; Zdanski, Carlton J.; Grose, John H.

doi: 10.1097/01.aud.0000224100.30525.ab
Research Articles

Objective: To describe a group of children exhibiting electrophysiologic responses characteristic of auditory neuropathy (AN) who were subsequently identified as having absent or small cochlear nerves (i.e., cochlear nerve deficiency).

Design: A retrospective review of the clinical records, audiological testing results, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. Fifty-one of 65 children with AN characteristics on auditory brain stem response (ABR) testing had MRI available for review. Nine (18%) of these 51 children with ABR characteristic of AN have been identified as having small (N = 2; 4%) or absent (N = 7; 14%) cochlear nerves on MRI.

Results: Of the nine children with cochlear nerve deficiency, five (56%) were affected unilaterally and four (44%) bilaterally. Eight of nine presented after failing a newborn infant hearing screening, whereas one presented at 3 yr of age. On diagnostic ABR testing, all 9 children (9 of 13 affected ears; 69%) had evidence of a cochlear microphonic (CM) and absent neural responses in at least one ear. In the unilateral cases, AN characteristics were detected in all affected ears. In bilateral cases, at least one of the ears in each child demonstrated the AN phenotype, whereas the contralateral ear had no CM identified. Only one ear with cochlear nerve deficiency had present otoacoustic emissions as measured by distortion-product otoacoustic emissions. In children with appropriate available behavioral testing results, all ears without cochlear nerves were identified as having a profound hearing loss. Only 4 (31%) of the 13 ears with cochlear nerve deficiency had a small internal auditory canal on MRI.

Conclusions: Children with cochlear nerve deficiency can present with electrophysiologic evidence of AN. These children frequently refer on newborn screening examinations that use ABR-based testing methods. Similar to other causes of AN, diagnostic ABR testing will show a CM with absent neural responses. Given that 9 (18%) of 51 children with available MRI and electrophysiologic characteristics of AN in our program have been identified as having cochlear nerve deficiency makes this a relatively common diagnosis. These findings suggest that MRI is indicated for all children diagnosed with AN. Moreover, electrophysiologic evidence of unilateral AN in association with a profound hearing loss should make the clinician highly suspicious for this problem. Although children with cochlear nerve deficiency who have a small nerve may benefit from cochlear implantation or amplification, these interventions are obviously contraindicated in children with completely absent cochlear nerves.

Cochlear nerve deficiency is a term used to describe those cases where the auditory nerve is either small or absent on temporal bone imaging. A retrospective review of the clinical records, audiological testing results, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of 51 children with auditory neuropathy (AN) revealed 9 (18%) cases (13 ears) with evidence of cochlear nerve deficiency. On diagnostic ABR testing, all 9 children (9 of 13 affected ears; 69%) had evidence of a cochlear microphonic (CM) and absent neural responses in at least one ear. Only 4 (31%) of the 13 affected ears had a small internal auditory canal on MRI. These findings demonstrate that children with cochlear nerve deficiency can present with electrophysiologic evidence of AN, even when temporal bone imaging demonstrates a normal size internal auditory canal. Thus, MRI is indicated for all children identified with AN to directly assess the integrity of the cochlear nerve.

Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Address for correspondence: Craig A. Buchman, MD, G0412 Neurosciences Hospital, CB 7600, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7600. E-mail: buchman@med.unc.edu.

Received September 2, 2005; accepted April 17, 2006.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.