What Are The First Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuroma & How Do You Test For It?

Acoustic neuroma is a benign cancer of the eighth cranial nerve. It is a slow-growing tumor. It does not grow in the brain but it may compress the brain when it grows big. Its symptoms involve loss of hearing, ringing in the ear, vertigo, facial numbness, loss of body balance and many others. It is detected by hearing tests and an MRI scan. It is treated with watchful monitoring, radiation therapy, and surgery.

What Are The First Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that develops on the vestibular nerve (eighth cranial nerve). This nerve is also known as the vestibulocochlear nerve that transmits sounds from the inner ear and sends the information of balance from the inner ear to the brain. This cancer is known as vestibular schwannoma. Usually, it affects one ear. Its growth is slow and may take years to develop. It does not develop in the brain. It may grow large that may compress the brain and neighboring cranial nerve. Then, it may disturb the functions of facial muscles and expressions and sensations. If tumors become too big, it compresses the brain stem and cerebellum that can be fatal.(1)

The symptoms of acoustic neuroma are often not noticeable. People often consider them as symptoms of normal aging. It is understood only after diagnosis. It affects hearing and balance nerves. Its symptoms appear as the tumors grow.(1) Its first symptoms include a slow and gradual loss of hearing in one of the ears. It is often associated with ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and a sensation of fullness in the affected ear. Sometimes, it may cause a sudden loss of hearing.(2)

The other symptoms of acoustic neuroma involve-

  • Partial or complete loss of hearing in one ear
  • Numbness, weakness or twitching felt on any side of the face
  • Dizziness, trouble while walking and poor coordination of the body
  • Feeling of fullness or pain in the ear
  • Trouble while chewing
  • Headaches(3)
  • Difficulty in swallowing followed by hoarseness
  • Changes in the taste
  • Confusion(1)

Symptoms like clumsiness and confusion in the mind indicate the serious impact of the tumors on the brain, and it calls for immediate treatment.(1)

Acoustic neuroma is detected with a hearing test, MRI and CT scan. A hearing test or auditory test is done by the audiologist to determine your hearing ability. MRI scan determines the size of the tumors. If the MRI scan is not available, then a CT scan is performed to find the exact location of the tumors. However, an MRI scan can find out even small tumors of size 1 to 2 millimeters in diameters.(4)

Causes Of Acoustic Neuroma

The causes of acoustic neuroma are not clear. There are two types of acoustic sarcoma. One is sporadic form and the other is associated with a genetic disorder named neurofibromatosis type II. The sporadic form of acoustic neuroma does not have any specific cause known today. The only known risk factor for the sporadic form is direct exposure to the high doses of radiation applied especially to the head and neck.(1)

The type of acoustic neuroma associated with neurofibromatosis type II is most commonly seen in adults above 30 years. it is an inherited disease that leads to the formation of tumors in the entire nervous system. It usually affects both ears. It is rarest among the two types of acoustic neuroma.(1)

Conclusion

Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumor of the eighth cranial nerve. Its first symptoms involve slow hearing loss over a few years, with a ringing sound in the ear and fullness feeling in one of the ears. It is detected with hearing tests, CT scan and MRI scans.

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