Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that develops on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Check out an explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it in the following review.
What is an Acoustic Neuroma?
Acoustic neuroma is a condition where there is a benign tumor in the part that connects the ear to the brain. This type of tumor usually grows slowly, whereas as it grows, the tumor can press on the hearing and balance nerves.
At first, people with ear tumors may have no symptoms or mild symptoms; and can include hearing loss on one side, up to cause dizziness or headaches.
Tumors can also eventually cause numbness or paralysis of the face. If it grows large enough, the tumor can press against the brain and become life threatening.
Acoustic Neuroma Symptoms
The most common symptom is hearing loss in one ear (unilateral). Symptoms occur in almost all patients with ear tumors.
Other symptoms that may occur in the early stages include:
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- Lose balance.
- Feel the environment like spinning (vertigo).
As the tumor grows, sufferers may have other symptoms, including:
- Blurred or double vision.
- Taste changes.
- Facial numbness, weakness, spasms, pain, or paralysis.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Difficulty swallowing
These symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other ear disorders. These similarities make these conditions difficult to diagnose. Therefore, consult a doctor if you experience hearing changes.
When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?
If you experience hearing loss in one ear, ringing in your ear, or problems with your balance, consult a doctor immediately.
Getting an early diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma can prevent the tumor from growing so large that it can cause complete hearing loss.
Causes of Acoustic Neuroma
The cause of these tumors can be linked to a problem with a gene on chromosome 22. This gene normally produces a tumor suppressor protein to help control the growth of Schwann cells that cover nerves.
This faulty gene is also inherited in neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare disorder that usually leads to the growth of tumors on the hearing and balance nerves on both sides of the head (bilateral vestibular schwannomas).
However, in many cases, this condition has no known cause
Also Read: Often Considered the Same, Recognize the Differences between Malignant and Benign Tumors
Although there is no identifiable cause, there may be several factors that can increase the risk of ear tumors, including:
- Age: It tends to occur between the ages of 30 to 60 years.
- Family history: Neurofibromatosis type 2 can run in families, but this condition is rare.
- Radiation exposure: Significant exposure to the head and neck during childhood can increase the risk later in life.
Research suggests that some cases of this cancer may be due to long-term exposure to loud noises. There is another opinion that cell phone use may increase the risk of developing acoustic neuroma, but this claim still requires further research.
Diagnosis of Acoustic Neuroma
Acoustic neuroma is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be caused by other health problems, such as Ménière’s disease.
If your doctor suspects that you have this condition, you may be referred to a hospital or clinic for further examination, including:
- Hearing test. This test checks for hearing problems and determines if they are caused by problems with the nerves.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Examination using a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the head.
- CT scan (computerized tomography scan). A test that uses a series of X-rays to produce detailed images of the inside of the head.
Acoustic Neuroma Treatment
Basically, treatment depends on the size and position of the ear tumor, how fast it is growing, and the patient’s general health. Here are some common treatments, including:
- Monitor tumors. Small tumors often only need to be monitored with regular MRI scans, and treatment is usually only recommended if scans show the tumor is getting bigger.
- Brain surgery. Surgery is performed to remove all or part of the tumor through an incision in the skull. This action can be performed under general anesthesia if the size is large or increases in size
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). Small tumors or parts of larger tumors that remain after surgery can be treated with appropriate radiation beams to stop them from getting bigger.
All of the above treatment options have some risks. For example, surgery and radiosurgery can sometimes cause facial numbness or inability to move part of the face (paralysis).
Therefore, consult with a surgeon about the right treatment options, benefits, and risks.
Also Read: 11 Types of Benign Tumors that Need to be Recognized, Can They Become Cancer?
Acoustic Neuroma Complications
If left untreated, this condition can cause various permanent complications, including:
- Hearing disorders.
- Numbness and weakness in the face.
- Difficulty with body balance.
- Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus).
Larger tumors can press on the brainstem and block the normal flow of fluid between the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid).
This condition risks causing a buildup of fluid in the head (hydrocephalus) which increases the pressure inside the skull.
Acoustic Neuroma Prevention
This disease cannot be prevented, but you can reduce your risk of complications by paying attention to the various changes that occur in your body. If you experience any symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, or ringing in your ears, don’t ignore them.
Visit a doctor immediately to make a complete diagnosis and understand the symptoms you are complaining about. The earlier the condition is detected, the better the chances of full tumor removal and restoration of hearing.
- Anonymous. 2021. Acoustic Neuromas. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16400-acoustic-neuroma. (Accessed February 10, 2023)
- Anonymous. 2021. Acoustic neuromas. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acoustic-neuroma/symptoms-causes/syc-20356127. (Accessed February 10, 2023)
- Anonymous. 2022. Acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acoustic-neuroma/. (Accessed February 10, 2023)
- Wint, Carmella. 2017. Acoustic Neuromas. https://www.healthline.com/health/acoustic-neuroma. (Accessed February 10, 2023)
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