What is an Acoustic Neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma is a rare and benign tumor that arises on the eighth cranial nerve leading from the brain to the inner ear. Acoustic neuromas are usually slow-growing, but when large can displace normal brain tissue.
Initial symptoms of an acoustic neuroma are a reduction in hearing in one ear. This hearing loss is usually subtle and worsens slowly. Very rarely will someone completely lose their hearing, although if left untreated, total hearing loss will eventually occur. In addition to this reduction in hearing, another initial symptom may be the feeling of fullness in the affected ear. During the growth of the tumor, other symptoms may include the feeling of unsteadiness or having balance problems (sometimes even vertigo). As the tumor worsens, the person may experience facial numbness and/or tingling (either contently or intermittently). The onset of facial pressure could trigger headaches, clumsiness, and/or mental confusion. This facial pressure will likely not cause weakness or paralysis of the face, although this potentially could occur, either short or long term. Acoustic neuromas can eventually become life-threatening if it grows large enough.
Diagnosing an acoustic neuroma can be very difficult but advances in medicine have made this identification possible. Routine auditory tests may reveal a loss of hearing and speech discrimination. An audiogram would be able to effectively evaluate hearing in both ears. If hearing loss is identified, an MRI should be performed. An MRI scan would be able to reveal a tumor if there is one present. If an MRI scan is not available or cannot be performed, a CT scan should be prioritized. The combination of the audiogram and CT scan approach the reliability of an MRI in the diagnosing of an acoustic neuroma.
For an acoustic neuroma, there are several treatment options available to the patient. The AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute is a state-of-the art facility for adults and children affected by acoustic neuromas. We specialize in minimally invasive treatments that use laser technology to remove tumors or reduce their size. These advanced techniques preserve hearing and facial nerve function more effectively than conventional treatments and often result in less damage to brain tissue. Recovery times also are shorter.