Acoustic neuroma is a specific type of brain tumor, also referred to as vestibular schwannoma or neurilemoma.
This is a benign and slow developing tumor that develops in the canal between the brain and the inner ear.
Most prevalent in people aged 30-60 years, it is non-cancerous tumor and develops adjacent to your brain on a portion of the eighth cranial nerve due to the pressing of the tumor on cranial nerves.
For some people, acoustic neuroma never causes any problems, but as the tumor develops, it is more likely to manifest signs and symptoms. Most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include:
- Ringing or tinnitus in the affected ear;
- Hearing loss, which is usually gradual, but in some cases occurs suddenly on only one side;
- Dizziness or vertigo;
- Loss of balance;
- Facial weakness or numbness.
Sometimes, the tumor can press on the brain stem. In some cases, the acoustic neuroma tumor can become large and compress your brainstem, which can be life-threatening.
If you observe ringing, trouble in balance, dizziness, or hearing loss, mainly in one ear, contact your doctor immediately. Diagnosing the condition early can prevent growth of the tumor.
The cranial nerve mainly has three branches that can transmit information from the inner ear to the brain. One is the cochlear branchwhich carries sound, and the other two are the superior vestibular branch and inferior vestibular branch, which carry information about balance. Most acoustic neuromas develop on the vestibular branch.
In rare cases, the tumor causing acoustic neuroma is a sign of neurofibromatosis 2. This is a genetic condition that includes the growth of a tumor on the vestibulocochlear nerve.
These tumors can affect both sides of the brain. Neurofibromatosis 2 is also known as autosomal dominant disorder, which means that mutation happens on a non-sex chromosome.
Some studies suggest that continuous exposure to loud noises or greater usage of cell phones can play a role in developing acoustic neuroma.
Untreated acoustic neuroma can lead to the following:
- Pain in your face;
- Facial twitches;
- Facial numbness;
- Visual difficulties such as double vision;
- Difficulty swallowing;
- Death due to impaired brain functioning.
In order to diagnose acoustic neuroma, your doctor will conduct tests like hearing test, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The acoustic neuroma develops at a slow rate and the treatment options include [Acoustic Neuroma Treatment]:
Surgery: Microsurgery methods are used for tumor removal and to protect the facial nerves in order to avoid facial paralysis.
An incision is made to remove the tumor. However, this type of surgery can result in facial nerve damage and hearing loss.
Stereotactic procedures: In this procedure, a non-invasive device is used to direct gamma radiations on the tumor. A lightweight head frame is attached to numb your scalp. This type of radiosurgery stops the growth of the tumor.