Acoustic Neuroma

What is Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuroma, also called vestibular schwannoma, is a growth (tumor) on a nerve in the inner ear. It is not cancerous (benign). The tumor grows on the eighth cranial nerve.

This nerve passes between the brain and the inner ear through a bony tunnel (internal auditory canal). The eighth cranial nerve is important for hearing and balance.

As the tumor gets larger, it has less room to grow inside of the canal. It starts to press on the nerve and can cause problems with hearing or balance. Nerves in the face may also be affected. Acoustic neuroma usually only happens on one side of the body.

3 Interesting Facts of Acoustic Neuroma

  1. Benign lesion involving Schwann cells of vestibular branch of the eighth cranial nerve
  2. Possible vertigo, unilateral hearing loss, and tinnitus; may be associated with pain in some patients
  3. Differentiated by CT or MRI examination, which will reveal tumor

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by an overgrowth of the cells (Schwann cells) that make up the outer layer of the eighth cranial nerve. The cause of this overgrowth is not known.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in:

  • People who have family history of neurofibromatosis. This is a condition that is passed along from parent to child (inherited). It causes benign tumors to grow on many nerves, including the eighth cranial nerve.
  • Women.

What are the symptoms?

If the tumor is large enough to cause symptoms, the most common symptom is hearing loss in one ear. Sometimes the hearing loss is sudden. Other signs and symptoms may develop over time. Possible signs and symptoms include:

  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
  • Loss of balance or a sensation of spinning (vertigo).
  • Headache.

A large acoustic neuroma may start to affect other nerves in the face and throat. This can lead to facial weakness or numbness and tingling. You may also have difficulty swallowing.

How is Acoustic Neuroma diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam. The exam may include tests to check your hearing and balance. Imaging tests of your inner ear or brain, such as an MRI, CT scan, or X-ray, will be done to confirm the diagnosis.

How is Acoustic Neuroma treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on your symptoms, the size of the tumor, and your overall health. Treatment may include:

  • Monitoring the tumor. Acoustic neuroma is a tumor that grows slowly. Treatment may not be needed unless the tumor is large and causes symptoms.
  • Medicines, such as anticonvulsants or corticosteroids.
  • Radiation therapy to stop the tumor from growing.
  • Surgery to remove all or part of the tumor. This may be done if you have symptoms or if your tumor is growing.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Learn as much as you can about your condition and work closely with your team of health care providers.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is especially important if you have an acoustic neuroma that is being monitored.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have any of the following symptoms that get worse:
    • Tinnitus.
    • Vertigo.
    • Headache.
    • Hearing loss.
  • You have facial weakness, tingling, or numbness.
  • You develop new symptoms.
  • You have difficulty swallowing.

Get help right away if:

  • You develop severe dizziness.
  • You have difficulty standing or walking.
  • You develop a severe headache.
  • You pass out or lose consciousness.
  • You have a seizure.

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