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Acoustic neuroma

  • Overview


    Did you know an acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumour growing on the vestibular nerve? This nerve connects the inner ear to the brain and can affect balance and hearing. An acoustic neuroma can cause hearing loss, ear ringing, and balance problems if left untreated. People also refer to it as vestibular schwannoma.

    The tumour develops from Schwann cells that cover the vestibular nerve. While it usually grows slowly, in rare cases, it can increase and cause pressure on the brain, affecting vital functions.

    Fortunately, several treatment options for an acoustic neuroma are available, including monitoring, radiation, and surgical removal. Discussing these options with your doctor to determine the best course of action for your case is essential.

  • Symptoms


    Acoustic neuroma symptoms can be challenging to detect and might take years to manifest. These symptoms may arise from the tumour’s impact on the hearing and balance nerves. Moreover, the tumour can exert pressure on neighbouring nerves that control facial movements, such as the facial nerve, and cause sensations, like the trigeminal nerve. Additionally, acoustic neuroma can affect blood vessels or brain structures.

    As the tumour progresses, the symptoms may become more noticeable and severe. Common acoustic neuroma symptoms consist of hearing loss, which can happen gradually over months or years, and in rare cases, suddenly. Typically, hearing loss affects one ear or is more severe on one side. Tinnitus, a ringing sound in the affected ear, is also a common symptom. Other symptoms include losing balance, feeling unsteady, dizziness, facial numbness, and, in rare cases, muscle weakness or loss of movement.

    In some cases, the acoustic neuroma may become large enough to compress the brainstem and pose a life-threatening risk.

  • When to see a doctor


    If you experience hearing loss in one ear, ringing in your ear, or balance issues, it is essential to seek medical attention. Early diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma can prevent the tumour from growing large enough to cause serious complications, such as complete hearing loss.

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  • Causes


    Sometimes, a gene on chromosome 22 can cause acoustic neuromas. Typically, this gene produces a protein that suppresses tumours and regulates the growth of Schwann cells that cover the nerves. The reason for the gene malfunction is unknown; often, there is no known cause for the development of acoustic neuromas. However, the gene mutation is inherited in individuals with neurofibromatosis type 2. This rare condition is characterised by the growth of tumours on both sides of the head, specifically on the hearing and balance nerves, referred to as bilateral vestibular schwannomas.

  • Risk factors


    Acoustic neuromas are primarily linked to having a parent with the rare genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis type 2. However, this only accounts for about 5% of all cases. The development of noncancerous tumours on the balance nerves on both sides of the head and other nerves characterises neurofibromatosis type 2. It is an autosomal dominant disorder, which means that the gene responsible can be passed down from just one parent, and each child of an affected parent has a 50-50 chance of inheriting it.

  • Prevention

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023