Even when they’re extremely small, tumours on the nerves that connect the brain to the ear can wreak havoc on a person’s hearing and balance. But removing them is a delicate process. In a study, researchers now found high rates of success at preserving patients’ hearing when a particular type of procedure was used to remove the tumours, which are known as acoustic neuromas or vestibular schwannomas.

The study examined the cases of 73 patients with acoustic neuromas who were operated on between 1999 and 2005 using a procedure known as the middle cranial fossa, or MCF, approach. Of the people in the study who had useful hearing before the surgery, about three-quarters retained a level of useful hearing after their tumours were removed.

“The important message with this research is that if you present to us with a small acoustic neuroma, we have a very good chance of preserving your hearing”, says H. Alexander Arts, M.D., professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Hearing status in the study was classified as A, B, C or D, with Class A being the best. Sixty-two people had Class A or B hearing before the procedure, which was referred to in the study as “useful hearing”, and of those 45 people remained in Class A or B afterward. Three people began with Class C, with two of them remaining at that level afterward; eight patients began with Class D hearing, and one of them improved to Class C.

One of the best gauges of success was that a large number of patients with the highest level of hearing did not deteriorate significantly after the procedure. Of the 34 patients who began with Class A hearing, 27 people maintained Class A or B hearing. Ninety-six percent of patients experienced excellent or satisfactory facial nerve outcomes.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan Health System