Acoustic neuroma, also known as vestibular schwannoma, is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that develops on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. This nerve, known as the vestibular nerve, is responsible for transmitting information about balance and spatial orientation from the inner ear to the brain.
Acoustic neuromas are slow-growing tumors and are often discovered incidentally through imaging tests performed for another reason. The most common symptoms of an acoustic neuroma include hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness, and balance problems. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild or may not be noticeable at all.
Diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma typically involves a combination of imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and hearing tests, such as audiometry.
Treatment options for an acoustic neuroma include observation, surgical removal, and radiation therapy. The choice of treatment will depend on various factors, such as the size of the tumor, the patient’s age and overall health, and the degree of hearing loss.
Observation is recommended for small tumors that are not causing symptoms, as the tumors may grow very slowly and may not require immediate treatment. In the case of larger tumors or tumors that are causing symptoms, surgical removal is often recommended. Radiation therapy, such as stereotactic radiosurgery, may also be used as an alternative to surgery for some patients, especially those with smaller tumors.
It is important to keep in mind that acoustic neuromas are rare and most people who experience hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems do not have a tumor. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation and proper diagnosis.
Information on acoustic neuromas:
- Risk factors: The exact cause of acoustic neuromas is unknown, but some risk factors have been identified. These include exposure to radiation, having a family history of the condition, and having certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type 2.
- Progression: Acoustic neuromas tend to grow slowly and may take many years to reach a size that causes symptoms. However, in some cases, the tumors may grow more quickly and cause symptoms to develop more rapidly.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss is a common symptom of an acoustic neuroma and may occur in one or both ears. The degree of hearing loss can range from mild to severe and may progress as the tumor grows.
- Tinnitus: Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, is another common symptom of an acoustic neuroma. This may occur in one or both ears and can be continuous or intermittent.
- Balance problems: An acoustic neuroma can affect balance by disrupting the normal functioning of the vestibular nerve. This may cause dizziness, unsteadiness, and problems with coordination.
- Impact on quality of life: An acoustic neuroma can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance problems can all interfere with daily activities and make it difficult to perform routine tasks.
It’s important to note that not all people with acoustic neuromas will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Regular monitoring and follow-up with a doctor are important for managing an acoustic neuroma and ensuring that treatment is received in a timely manner if necessary.