Disease: Acoustic neuroma

Appointments & care

At Mayo Clinic, we take the time to listen, to find answers and to provide you the best care.

Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has been recognized as the best Neurology & Neurosurgery hospital in the nation for 2014-2015 by U.S. News & World Report.

Acoustic neuroma is an uncommon, noncancerous (benign) and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. Because branches of this nerve directly influence your balance and hearing, pressure from an acoustic neuroma can cause hearing loss, ringing in your ear and unsteadiness.

Also known as vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuroma usually grows slowly or not at all. However, in a few cases, it may grow rapidly and become large enough to press against the brain and interfere with vital functions.

Treatments for acoustic neuroma include regular monitoring, radiation and surgical removal.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

The signs and symptoms of acoustic neuroma develop from direct effects on the main nerve or from the tumor pressing on adjacent nerves, nearby blood vessels or brain structures.

As the tumor grows, it may be more likely to cause signs and symptoms, although tumor size doesn't always determine effects. It's possible for a small tumor to cause significant signs and symptoms.

You may experience signs and symptoms such as:

  • Hearing loss, usually gradual — although in some cases sudden — and occurring on only one side or more pronounced on one side
  • Ringing (tinnitus) in the affected ear
  • Unsteadiness, loss of balance
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Facial numbness and very rarely, weakness

In rare cases, an acoustic neuroma may grow large enough to compress the brainstem and threaten your life.

When to see your doctor

See your doctor if you notice hearing loss in one ear, ringing in your ear or trouble with your balance. Early diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma may help keep the tumor from growing large enough to cause serious consequences, such as total hearing loss or a life-threatening buildup of fluid within your skull.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

The cause of acoustic neuromas — tumors on the main balance nerves leading from your inner ear to your brain (eighth cranial nerve) — appears to be a malfunctioning gene on chromosome 22. Normally, this gene produces a protein that helps control the growth of Schwann cells covering the nerves. What makes this gene malfunction isn't clear, and currently there are no known risk factors for getting an acoustic neuroma.

Scientists do know the faulty gene is inherited in neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare disorder that usually involves the growth of tumors on balance nerves on both sides of your head (bilateral vestibular schwannomas).

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Appointments & care

At Mayo Clinic, we take the time to listen, to find answers and to provide you the best care.

Because signs and symptoms of acoustic neuroma are likely to develop gradually and because symptoms such as hearing loss can be indicators of other middle and inner ear problems, it may be difficult for your doctor to detect the tumor in its early stages.

After asking questions about your symptoms, your doctor will conduct an ear exam. Your doctor may order the following tests:

  • Hearing test (audiometry). In this test, conducted by a hearing specialist (audiologist), you hear sounds directed to one ear at a time. The audiologist presents a range of sounds of various tones and asks you to indicate each time you hear the sound. Each tone is repeated at faint levels to find out when you can barely hear.

    The audiologist may also present various words to determine your hearing ability.

  • Scans. Contrasted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans of your head can provide images that confirm the presence of an acoustic neuroma.

Hearing test (audiometry). In this test, conducted by a hearing specialist (audiologist), you hear sounds directed to one ear at a time. The audiologist presents a range of sounds of various tones and asks you to indicate each time you hear the sound. Each tone is repeated at faint levels to find out when you can barely hear.

The audiologist may also present various words to determine your hearing ability.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

An acoustic neuroma may cause a variety of permanent complications, including:

  • Hearing loss
  • Facial numbness and weakness
  • Difficulties with balance
  • Ringing in the ear

Large tumors may press on your brainstem, preventing the normal flow of fluid between your brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). In this case, fluid can build up in your head (hydrocephalus), increasing the pressure inside your skull.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Dealing with the possibility of hearing loss and facial paralysis and deciding which treatment would be best for you can be quite stressful. Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

  • Educate yourself about acoustic neuroma. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to make good choices about treatment. Besides talking to your doctor and your audiologist, you may want to talk to a counselor or social worker. Or you may find it helpful to talk to other people who've had an acoustic neuroma and learn more about their experiences during and after treatment.
  • Maintain a strong support system. Family and friends can help you as you go through this difficult time. Sometimes, though, you may find the concern and understanding of other people with acoustic neuroma especially comforting.

    Your doctor or a social worker may be able to put you in touch with a support group. Or you may find an in-person or online support group through the Acoustic Neuroma Association.

Maintain a strong support system. Family and friends can help you as you go through this difficult time. Sometimes, though, you may find the concern and understanding of other people with acoustic neuroma especially comforting.

Your doctor or a social worker may be able to put you in touch with a support group. Or you may find an in-person or online support group through the Acoustic Neuroma Association.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Genetic risk of neurofibromatosis type 2

The only known risk factor for acoustic neuroma is having a parent with the rare genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 2, but this accounts for only a small number of cases. A hallmark characteristic of neurofibromatosis type 2 is the development of benign tumors on the balance nerves on both sides of your head, as well as on other nerves.

Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is known as an autosomal dominant disorder, meaning that the mutation can be passed on by just one parent (dominant gene). Each child of an affected parent has a 50-50 chance of inheriting it.

Another possible risk factor that may be associated with acoustic neuroma includes childhood exposure to low-dose radiation of the head and neck.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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