You might be familiar with the effects of a pinched nerve. It can happen when you fall asleep on your arm. When pinched, the nerves in your arm can make it feel like your limb is tingling or disconnected from your body.
Acoustic neuromas work similarly. By putting pressure on your vestibular nerve, they disrupt signals to a nerve branch that contributes to both balance and hearing.
An acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous, slow-growing tumor that develops from Schwann cells covering the vestibular nerve. Schwann cells normally wrap around nerve fibers to help support and insulate nerves. When there is an overproduction of Schwann cells, an acoustic neuroma can develop.
When Do You Start to See Symptoms?
Because acoustic neuroma symptoms often progress gradually, they may take years to notice. As the tumor grows, the TV may gradually start to feel too quiet or the barista at Tilt Coffee Bar difficult hard to understand.
Although rare, if the tumor is very large, it can affect the facial nerve or expressions.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
Your provider will likely use your symptoms, an ear exam, a hearing test and an MRI to diagnose your acoustic neuroma.
Following diagnosis, your treatment options will vary depending on the size and growth rate of your tumor, your overall health and your symptom severity.
Three standard treatment approaches include:
- Monitoring. If your tumor is small and slow-growing, your provider may recommend monitoring with regular imaging every six to 12 months to track growth. If the symptoms worsen or tumor growth accelerates, you may need surgery or radiation.
- Surgery. There are several surgical techniques aimed at removing a neuroma and preserving the facial nerve. Your provider is likely to recommend surgery if your neuroma is growing too large or causing severe symptoms.
- Radiation. Radiation therapy slows the growth of the neuroma without damaging the surrounding tissue. Standard radiation techniques include proton beam therapy, fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery.
More than 90% of acoustic neuroma patients have hearing loss in one ear. Hearing loss from acoustic neuromas is often irreversible. In the case of permanent hearing loss, hearing aids are an effective treatment option. The small devices collect and amplify speech sounds while reducing irrelevant background noise to clarify communication.
For more information on acoustic neuromas and managing your hearing loss symptoms, contact The House Institute Hearing Health Centers today.