An acoustic neuroma is a rare, benign tumor that develops on the vestibulocochlear nerve and can affect hearing and balance. While some are small enough that they cause no symptoms, others cause debilitating effects that require treatment.
Quick Facts About Acoustic Neuromas
- Also referred to as vestibular schwannomas
- They are estimated to affect about 1 in 100,000 people in the general population.
- Usually occur spontaneously in otherwise healthy people
- Women are more often affected than men
- Most cases develop in people ages 30-60, however, in rare cases, they can develop in children as well.
- Exposure to radiation or loud noises may be risk factors, but research is inconclusive.
- The only known risk factor is an inherited disorder called neurofibromatosis type II (NF2), associated with a malfunctioning gene on chromosome 22.
Hearing Loss and Other Symptoms
Hearing loss in one ear is a common symptom of acoustic neuromas, and the first symptom experienced in roughly 90% of those affected. While often gradual, your hearing loss may come on suddenly or fluctuate in severity.
Other common symptoms include:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Problems with balance
- Changes in taste
- Difficulty swallowing
- Facial numbness and weakness
In rare cases, these tumors can grow large enough that they press on the brainstem. This can cause neurological problems and even be fatal without treatment.
If you have been experiencing one-sided hearing loss or have felt off-balance walking through Fox Point State Park, make an appointment with your medical provider. If they suspect an acoustic neuroma, they will refer you to an otolaryngologist who will review your symptoms as well as order hearing and imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms and your tumor is small, your doctor might recommend observation with regular tests every six months to a year. If you start experiencing symptoms or the tumor grows, several surgical options are available.
- Radiosurgery. This method delivers radiation without the need for an incision. Results are slower than regular surgery, but it can be the preferred choice depending on the location of your tumor.
- Microsurgery. This involves either full or partial removal of the tumor. It’s usually the required treatment if the acoustic neuroma is causing additional health problems or growing too close to the brain or facial nerve.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact Wilmington Audiology Services today.