- Acoustic neuroma also known as vestibular schwannoma is a benign tumour that grows in the vestibular nerve which connects the inner ear to the brainstem. This growth, although noncancerous, can still cause problems for the patient. While acoustic neuromas rarely cause death, if left untreated, they tend to grow and can become quite large, leading to the potential inner ear to the brain stem. This tumour develops slowly and grows on the sheath of the nerve. Although it is a non-cancerous tumour, it can cause serious problems due to its location near the brain.
- Acoustic neuroma accounts for about 5-10% of all intracranial tumours. It is most commonly diagnosed in people aged between 30 to 60 years with a slight prevalence in women. While it is a rare condition, it can have a significant impact on the person’s quality of life if left untreated.
- There are several factors that can contribute to the development of acoustic neuroma, including exposure to radiation, genetic factors, and prolonged use of mobile phones. Symptoms of acoustic neuroma can include hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, and difficulty with balance.
- Early diagnosis of acoustic neuroma is important for effective treatment. Treatment options can range from surgical removal of the tumour, radiation therapy, or simply monitoring the tumour’s growth.
The specific cause of acoustic neuroma is not yet fully understood. However, several factors have been identified that increase the risk of developing this condition.
Exposure to Radiation
Previous exposure to radiation can increase the risk of developing acoustic neuroma. This may include exposure to radiation in the form of X-rays, radiotherapy for previous cancer treatment, or exposure to nuclear radiation or radioactive chemicals.
Some cases of acoustic neuroma are inherited or caused by a genetic mutation. The condition is often associated with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), which is a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to develop multiple tumours in their nervous system, including the vestibular nerve.
Mobile Phone Use
There is some evidence to suggest that prolonged use of mobile phones may increase the risk of developing acoustic neuroma. However, this link is still not yet fully understood and further research is needed to confirm this relationship.
Acoustic neuroma is a slow-growing tumour and symptoms may not develop until several years after the tumour has started to grow. Symptoms can vary depending on the size and location of the tumour, as well as the individual’s overall health.
The most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include:
- Hearing Loss
The most common symptom of acoustic neuroma is hearing loss, which is often gradual and affects one ear. This hearing loss may be accompanied by a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear (tinnitus).
- Dizziness and Balance Problems
Acoustic neuroma can also cause dizziness and balance problems. This may include vertigo, a feeling of spinning or dizziness, which can be severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting.
- Unsteadiness While Walking
Difficulty with walking and unsteadiness may also be experienced by those with acoustic neuroma. This can make daily activities difficult and unsafe.
- Facial Numbness or Weakness
In some cases, acoustic neuroma can cause numbness or weakness on one side of the face. This can affect facial expressions, making it difficult to smile or close the eye on the affected side.
Diagnosis of acoustic neuroma usually involves a combination of imaging tests, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan, as well as a consultation with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
- Physical Examination
A physical examination may be conducted to check for any changes in hearing, balance, facial movements or other symptoms related to the central nervous system.
- Imaging Tests
An imaging test such as an MRI or CT scan is typically used to visualise the tumour and determine its size and location.
- Hearing Test
A hearing test may also be carried out to determine the extent of the hearing loss and whether it is caused by the tumour or another condition.
Treatment options for acoustic neuroma depend on several factors, including the size and location of the tumour, as well as the individual’s overall health and personal preferences.
In some cases, acoustic neuroma may not require immediate treatment and can simply be monitored for growth over time. This approach may be recommended for small, asymptomatic tumours or for those who are not good candidates for surgery due to other health issues.
Surgical removal of the tumour may be recommended for larger tumours that are causing severe symptoms or are growing rapidly. This is typically done with a procedure called translabyrinthine or retro sigmoid approach. This may involve the removal of the entire tumour or simply the decompression of the nerve.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy, such as stereotactic radiosurgery or fractionated external beam radiation therapy, may be recommended for patients who cannot undergo surgery or choose not to have surgery. This involves the use of high-energy beams to target and destroy the tumour cells.
The treatment course and outcome of acoustic neuroma may vary depending on numerous factors, including tumour size, individual preferences, and overall health condition. With modern medical techniques and advanced treatment options, patients with acoustic neuroma have a better chance of recovering fully and leading a normal life.
Acoustic neuroma is a rare but potentially serious condition that affects the vestibular nerve and can lead to serious symptoms such as hearing loss, balance problems, and facial weakness. While the exact cause is not yet fully understood, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing this condition, including exposure to radiation, genetic factors, and prolonged use of mobile phones.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important for improving outcomes and preventing severe complications such as facial nerve damage or complete hearing loss. Treatment options can range from observation to surgery or radiation therapy, depending on the size and location of the tumour as well as individual preferences and overall health condition. With proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, patients with acoustic neuroma can recover and achieve normal functioning.