An Acoustic Neuroma is a condition described as a non-cancerous enlargement affecting transmission of the sound and balance from the inner ear to the brain. Most cases can be treated successfully with proper diagnosis and Acoustic Neuroma surgery with minimal invasion when recognized timely. The growth typically develops slowly over a period of several years, and it may be undetected until multiple symptoms are present.
The early manifestation of Acoustic Neuroma is often attributed to the process of aging. Gradual loss of hearing, feeling of fullness and ringing in the ears are the first symptoms of this disorder. Sudden hearing loss may occur, but it is generally rare. Additional symptoms transpiring over time may include the following.
- Balance impairment.
- Weakness and numbness of facial muscles.
- Change in the sound of voice and difficulty swallowing.
- Headaches and occasional confusion.
As these symptoms often mimic other medical conditions, it is imperative to see the medical provider as soon as they appear and obtain proper diagnosis. Both sporadic and inherited forms of Acoustic Neuroma typically exhibit first signs by the age of 30 and are treated by observation, surgery and radiation.
Careful monitoring of the tumor is implemented as the growth progress is sluggish, and urgent treatment may not be recommended at this stage. Periodic MRI scanning becomes a part of the treatment to record the progression and create a medical management plan tailored to the specific needs of the patient. Once it is established that the tumor is steadily succeeding, surgery may have to be performed to alleviate the symptoms and reduce or completely remove the tumor. Different forms of surgery are presently available and implemented only if necessary as some may result in permanent hearing loss. Minor tumors, such as middle fossa, can be corrected by the removal of particle of bone located above the ear canal. This procedure allows the surgeon to remove small lumps and restores the proper hearing function. Endoscopic resection done by the use of laser is a less invasive procedure, and it can be done by trained surgeons at major medical centers.
Some cases of Acoustic Neuroma benefit from radiation therapy. This method of treatment consists of high-dose radiation submission to the existing tumor without any extensive harm to the surrounding tissue. Single or multiple sessions are applied according to the patient’s health status and health history. The therapy results in shrinkage of the cells causing the growth, but it generally does not cure the condition completely.
The tumor does not attack the brain, but it causes pressure by pushing on the brain tissue eventually leading to its displacement. Severe compression can cause bony alterations and invasion of marrow spaces eventually leading to loss of facial function and permanent hearing loss. When the condition is suspected, auditory brain stem response test combined with an audiogram and comprehensive exam is completed to determine the course of treatment.