Hearing loss in one ear, ringing in the ear, dizziness and loss of balance—these are all signs of an acoustic neuroma, or vestibular schwannoma. Early diagnosis and treatment of this rare condition can help prevent serious complications from developing later.
What are acoustic neuromas?
Acoustic neuromas are noncancerous, typically slow-growing tumors that form on the vestibulocochlear nerve connecting the brain and the inner ear. This nerve is responsible for hearing and balance. As the tumor grows, it presses on the nerve, causing symptoms. Some tumors may grow large enough that they press against the brain and become life threatening.
Who develops acoustic neuromas?
Acoustic neuromas are commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 60. It’s believed that a malfunction of a gene on chromosome 22 is to blame, although why it happens is unknown. In a very small number of people, an inherited condition called neurofibromatosis type 2 can trigger tumor growth (this condition usually affects both ears).
What are the symptoms of acoustic neuromas?
In addition to hearing loss in one ear, ringing in the ear, dizziness and loss of balance, people with acoustic neuromas may also experience facial numbness or weakness. Permanent hearing loss, difficulties walking and, in the case of large tumors, fluid buildup in the skull (hydrocephalus), can also result.
How are acoustic neuromas diagnosed?
Ear exams, as well as tests that measure your hearing, balance and neurological function may be performed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans can also identify acoustic neuromas.
How are acoustic neuromas treated?
Small or slow-growing tumors that cause few or no symptoms may only require monitoring. Other patients may require invasive surgery to remove the tumor or noninvasive stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS; such as Gamma Knife offered at The Valley Hospital’s Gamma Knife Center, part of The Institute for Brain and Spine Radiosurgery), which delivers highly focused radiation specific to the tumor to stop its growth without harming the surrounding tissue. Your physician can determine the best treatment option for you.
Call the Gamma Knife Center at 201-634-5677 or complete the contact form for more information or to set up a consultation. Learn more about the Gamma Knife Center on our website.