Understanding the Symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuroma is a rare condition that causes hearing loss and other ear-related issues -- it a benign tumor on a nerve that transmits both sound and balance information. These are usually slow-growing tumors that take years to develop and while these tumors aren’t cancerous, as they grow, they create several problems. If the tumor grows large enough, it can dangerously press on the brain stem and inhibit normal drainage of cranial fluid.

Acoustic neuroma usually causes a series of symptoms that appear slowly and subtly, often mistaken for natural signs of aging. . Should you recognize any of these patterns, contact us at Acadiana Neurosurgery for further investigation of your symptoms.

One-Ear Indicator

Age-related hearing loss generally makes speech less clear, particularly in difficult listening situations, such as on the telephone or in loud restaurants, for example. Age-related loss is also typically bilateral. In the absence of injury or damage, both ears are affected about the same.

Though it’s not the only reason behind hearing loss in only one ear, acoustic neuroma typically begins on one side, so if you suspect you have age-related hearing loss, but you have a “good” ear that you favor, it may be time for a hearing assessment with acoustic neuroma in mind. This is particularly true if your one-sided hearing loss is accompanied by any of the following symptoms.

Sounds of Silence

Tinnitus is often commonly called “ringing in the ears,” however that’s something of a misnomer, since the phantom sounds of tinnitus need not resemble ringing. You may experience sounds that resemble what you might hear at a concert, where microphones are over-amplified. Tinnitus can be lower pitched also, like an electrical hum. Any persistent noise you can hear that isn’t coming through the environment qualifies as tinnitus.

With acoustic neuroma, your tinnitus will likely also favor one side, the same as that with the more advanced hearing loss.

Vertigo and Imbalance

The vestibular nerve that acoustic neuroma typically affects is responsible for balance. As the neuroma irritates this nerve in earlier stages of tumor growth, feelings of dizziness, vertigo, and imbalance arise commonly.

However, since neuroma affects one side, the rest of your body’s balance systems may compensate, so if you find that imbalance or vertigo disappears, it may be due to this compensation, rather than an improvement of the neuroma condition. Also, there are many other conditions of the inner ear that create similar balance or vertigo conditions.

Pressing Ahead

Once the acoustic neuroma reaches sufficient size, it may press against the skull’s inner lining, called the dura, which can sense pressure against it. This translates to a feeling of pressure on the side of the acoustic neuroma and it can cause headaches, both near the location of the tumor and radiate to other parts of the head.

In the Face

It’s possible that the neuroma could grow sufficiently to press on facial nerves. This typically results in weakness of facial muscles, particularly those involved with closing the eye, raising the eyebrow, or creasing the forehead. You may experience numbness in parts of your face, and your sense of taste and tear formation may change.

These are, however, more common in the later stages of acoustic neuroma development. Chances are, you will be diagnosed due to other symptoms before these changes begin.

Treatment of acoustic neuroma includes monitoring for tumor development when symptoms are mild and growth is minimal. Surgery and radiation treatments are options when the effects of acoustic neuroma become more extreme.







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