What You Should Know About Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuroma, also known as vestibular schwannoma is a benign tumor that grows on the nerve that goes from the inner ear to the brain. This nerve has branches that directly controls balance and influences our ability to hear. The pressure of this tumor can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, and imbalance. Acoustic neuroma develops from the Schwann cells. They might proliferate slowly or rapidly. They usually do develop to a size that could put some pressure on some parts of the brain, which eventually would disrupt its normal functioning. This tumor usually develops from the vestibular part of the vestibulocochlear nerve. This disease is more predominant in people between the ages of thirty and sixty. The cause of this disease has been linked to a mutation in the genetic makeup. A gene has been identified to be NF2. The symptoms of this disease include a gradual unilateral hearing loss and tinnitus. Also, there have been cases where patients present with imbalance. This disease is usually treated by surgical procedures. In addition, radiotherapy is commonly used. This disease could lead to a total hearing loss in the affected ear, if not well treated, or not treated at all.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuroma?

The initial symptoms of this disease are usually not paid serious attention. This is because they’re usually mild and can be mistaken to be typical of aging or prolonged exposure to noise. The most common symptom of this disease is hearing loss. This occurs in about 95% of cases. In addition, patients do complain of tinnitus, and this occurs about 83% of the total people affected. Vertigo, on the other hand, is presented as symptoms in about 50% of all acoustic neuroma cases. Below are some of the important symptoms of acoustic neuroma;

  1. Loss of hearing: This is one of the initial symptoms of acoustic neuroma. It occurs in up to 95% of all cases. This leads to a unilateral sensorineural hearing loss. This can be attributed to the damage of the cochlea, or nerves that goes from the inner ear to the brain. This is also accompanied by a decrease in sound level, the way affected people understand speech, and the clarity of sound. This symptom usually becomes worse, as the disease progresses. The severity of hearing loss varies in people; it could range from mild, moderate to a complete loss of hearing.
  2. Tinnitus: This occurs on one side of the ear. This is why it’s referred to as unilateral tinnitus. However, it’s important to know that not everyone that is affected by tinnitus would have an acoustic, In addition, not all patients of acoustic neuroma would present with tinnitus. Although, the majority of people affected do present with this symptom, before and even after receiving treatment.
  3. Balance: Acoustic neuroma is the growth of a benign tumor on the vestibulocochlear nerve. A part of this nerve controls balance and coordination. Therefore, imbalance, unsteadiness, vertigo are common symptoms of acoustic neuroma, because the cranial nerve is affected. Balance is the third most common symptom of acoustic neuroma. This symptom might not be paid much attention initially because they’re usually mid at onset, however, the symptoms intensify as the disease progresses. The severity increases towards to the later stage of the disease.
  4. Pressure: People affected by this disease usually do have a feeling that their ear is filled, or plugged. This can be attributed to the increase in the pressure inside the ear.
  5. Weakness of the face: Benign tumor in acoustic neuroma can compress other nerves, such as the fifth cranial nerve; the facial nerve. This makes the patient feel some tingling sensation on the face. Also, the patient’s face might feel numb, due to the paralysis of the facial nerve. Sensations such as taste can also be affected. This is more common when surgical procedures are carried out, and the nerve becomes injured or damaged.
  6. Headache: Patients do usually experience headaches. Although, this tends to be more common in big sized tumours.

What Are The Causes Of Acoustic Neuroma?

The exact cause of acoustic neuroma is unknown, however, researchers have suggested that this disease might be as a result of genetic mutation. Studies have indicated that this disease might be due to a mutation or defect in the tumor suppressor genes, which would lead to the unregulated growth of tissues; tumors. On the other hand, some other studies have indicated that acoustic neuroma might be due to the prolonged and consistent exposure to loud and excessive noise. The overuse of mobile cell phones has also been implicated to be a cause of this disease, however, there has been no evidence so far, to support this claim. Lastly, an acoustic neuroma can also develop secondary to other diseases. An example of such disease is neurofibromatosis type 2. This disease often leads to the development of acoustic neuroma in some people.

When Is Important To Go See A Doctor?

You should immediately go see a doctor if you notice that you’re experiencing hearing loss in one ear. In addition, symptoms such as lack of balance, tinnitus are red flags. The earlier acoustic neuroma is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.

What Are The Complications Of Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma is capable of causing some serious complications. Some of them are;

  1. Loss of hearing: Acoustic neuroma usually leads to loss of hearing. However, this can lead to deafness or partial hearing loss, if not well treated.
  2. Paralysis of the face
  3. Numbness of the face
  4. Imbalance and vertigo
  5. Tinnitus

How is acoustic neuroma treated?

The treatment of this disease differs in people. The kind of therapy that would be applied largely depends on the size of a tumor, and its growth rate.

Close monitoring: This is done when a tumor is small and isn’t growing. Your physician might decide to monitor the disease for some months before a proper decision is taken.

Surgery: This is done when a tumor is large sized. This is done to protect the nerves from any mechanical injury. The facial nerve gets compressed and can be damaged if a tumour is allowed to grow.


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A post-craniotomy headache after acoustic neuroma surgery. (2009). Cephalalgia.

Roos, D., Patel, S., Potter, A. and Zacest, A. (2015). When is an acoustic neuroma not an acoustic neuroma? Pitfalls for radiosurgery. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology, 59(4), pp.474-479.