If you are dealing with unexplained hearing loss, it may be caused from a rare condition called acoustic neuroma. Also known as vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuroma can actually lead to hearing loss, though it is uncommon. Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows very slowly in your inner ear nerve that leads to your brain. The branches of this nerve are responsible for much of your hearing and balance, so when pressure is caused from this non-cancerous tumor, it can cause balance and hearing problems, along with ringing in your ear. Even if you have acoustic neuroma, it can grow very slowly or not at all, but some are able to grow large enough to press against your brain.
Symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma
A variety of signs and symptoms can be experienced when you have acoustic neuroma, including gradual and unexplained hearing loss, ringing in your ears, a loss of balance, dizziness, and numbness and weakness in your face. If you’re suddenly experiencing a consistent ringing in your ear, hearing loss, and chronic vertigo or are unable to balance as you used to, you should speak to a doctor about potential tumors like acoustic neuroma.
Causes of Acoustic Neuroma
The exact cause of acoustic neuroma in patients is unknown, but scientists do know it is from a tumor on the nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. One of the causes seems to be from a gene that malfunctions on chromosome 22. This is the gene responsible for proteins that help the growth of cells covering these nerves and when there is a malfunction of the gene, it may cause tumors such as acoustic neuroma. There is also a genetic risk of developing the tumor if you have neurofibromatosis 2, which is a very rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors. Additional risk factors for acoustic neuroma may include radiation to your head as a child, exposure to very loud noises, or using mobile phones consistently; though most of these are unconfirmed.
Treating Acoustic Neuroma
The treatments for acoustic neuroma vary based on the severity of your tumor and side effects, but include radiation, monitoring, and surgical removal. Monitoring is done on a regular basis by checking the tumor to be sure it isn’t growing at a steady pace or pushing against your brain stem which can cause developmental issues. Monitoring includes vision and hearing tests about every 6 months to check the status of your condition. Stereotactic radiosurgery is another treatment option which allows your physician to give you radiation in hopes of decreasing the size of the tumor. You may also be able to get the tumor removed, especially if it is growing too fast or large.