What is Acoustic Neuroma? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous and slow-growing tumor that develops on the vestibular nerve that goes from the inner ear to the brain. It is also known as a vestibular schwannoma. 

An acoustic neuroma in Hindi is called a “dhyaanik neuroma” and is a rare form of cancer. There are various options for the treatment of the tumor including regular treatment, radiation, and surgical removal. 

Some of the symptoms of a vestibular schwannoma include problems with hearing and balancing, tinnitus (or ringing in the ears), and dizziness or loss of balance. Advanced stages of the tumour can cause problems like facial numbness and can also cause paralysis on the side of the tumour. If the tumour becomes too big, it might start pressing against nearby brain structures and thus become life-threatening.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at what an acoustic neuroma is, and its causes, symptoms, treatment, and what a diagnosis of vestibular schwannoma can mean.  

Acoustic Neuroma causes 

Before we take a look at the different acoustic neuroma causes, let’s take a look at the two types of acoustic neuromas:

  • Unilateral Acoustic Neuromas This type of tumor only affects one ear and it is the most common type of tumor. It is caused due to the result of nerve damage and is most likely seen in patients who are between 30 and 60 years old.
  • Bilateral Acoustic Neuromas It affects both the ears and is usually inherited by the patients. It is caused by neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2) which is a genetic problem.

An acoustic neuroma usually results due to the uncontrolled growth of the Schwann cells that cover the vestibular nerve. The growth usually happens over a long period of time and the rate is pretty slow. This causes problems in the nerve and can cause balancing and hearing problems, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and general unsteadiness. 

Even though the exact cause of acoustic neuromas is still not known, a lot of the cases are due to neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2) but there are theories that exposure to loud noises, neck and head radiation and even the use of cell phone can increase the risk for acoustic neuromas. 

Acoustic Neuroma Symptoms

Acoustic Neuroma symptoms usually take a long time to develop and can often seem like symptoms of other health problems or conditions. Here are some of the most common symptoms of acoustic neuromas:

  • Hearing loss one of the major acoustic neuroma symptoms is hearing loss. It usually happens gradually as the tumor increases in size. In some cases, it can also happen pretty suddenly. Hearing loss caused by the disorder can affect only one ear or both of them.
  • Ringing in the affected ear Acoustic neuromas can cause ringing in the affected ear which is known as tinnitus. It is one of the most common side-effects of the tumor.
  • Balancing Problems Acoustic neuromas can also cause balancing problems such as loss of balance or unsteadiness in the patients due to a faulty vestibular system.
  • Dizziness certain forms of dizziness such as vertigo can also be caused due to acoustic neuromas.
  • Facial Numbness One of the really rare symptoms of acoustic neuromas is facial weakness or loss of muscle movement. 

Acoustic Neuroma Treatment

Acoustic Neuroma treatment depends on the size of the tumor and the rate at which it is growing. Other factors influencing the decision are your overall health and the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Normally, there are three methods involved in acoustic neuroma treatment that are monitoring, surgery, and radiation therapy. 

  • Monitoring For patients who have a small tumor that is not growing or growing very slowly and who face few or no symptoms, the most common treatment method is regular monitoring. Monitoring is also a method that is used in patients who might not be good candidates for more aggressive treatment.
  • Surgery some patients might require surgery as part of their treatment. The ultimate goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and prevent the serious complications of the condition like facial paralysis and hearing loss.

    In some cases, the tumor is only partially removed, like when the tumor is close to the important parts of our brain or the facial nerve.
  • Radiation as a method for acoustic neuroma treatment is used when the patient has a small tumor, is an older adult or has any condition that disqualifies them from surgery. There are different methods of radiation therapy that may be used in the treatment process such as stereotactic radiosurgery and proton beam therapy. 

Acoustic Neuroma diagnosis 

It can be difficult to do an acoustic neuroma diagnosis in the early stages of the condition as the symptoms are usually subtle and hard to detect. In addition, the symptoms for the condition also match symptoms for other conditions of the inner and middle ear like hearing loss.

In most cases, your doctor will probably require you to get a hearing test (audiometry) and imaging (MRI) test done to make an acoustic neuroma diagnosis. 

  • Hearing test a hearing test is conducted by a hearing specialist, also known as an audiologist. In this test, the patient will hear sounds that are directed to one ear at a time. The hearing specialist will present a wide range of audio tones and ask the patient to indicate if they can the sound. The tones are played in various volume levels to obtain more comprehensive results.
  • Imaging Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to detect tumours in the brain as the test can detect tumours that are as small as 1-2 millimetres. 

conclusion:- acoustic neuroma is a small tumor that is usually harmless in its early stages but can become life-threatening if the growth is left unchecked. However, it is possible to diagnose and treat the condition easy in most cases.