Header Top

Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031
Utah: 435-688-8991 Nevada: 702-896-0031

A Discussion of Acoustic Neuroma

What Is Acoustic Neuroma?

Have you been diagnosed with acoustic neuroma? This is a condition that is characterized by benign tumors growing along the nerves responsible for auditory response or balance.

That probably sounds quite scary, but isn’t nearly as bad as you may think. They are almost never malignant, and can be treated. The biggest risk is that they grow too large, pressing on the stem of the brain. But generally, they can be caught long before that time, and taken care of long before the issue becomes a fatal one.

When the tumors first begin to grow, they start out pressing in against the 8th nerve. From there it continues to swell in size, pressing against the 7th nerve. This can cause facial ticks, either minor or severe. Eventually it may grow large enough to begin protruding from the ear canal, at which point it is at risk of reaching the brain stem. It is important that you receive treatment for acoustic neuroma long before it reaches this stage, when it is at the lowest risk for long term complications. For small tumors the risk is one percent, increasing when they have grown to larger masses.

At first someone with acoustic neuroma may only experience some slight hearing loss – as the cochlear nerve is pressed upon by the growth. The larger it becomes, the more extensive the hearing loss may be. Tumors at this stage are typically caught when patients complain of hearing loss. At that time medications and surgery will be employed to handle the masses before they grow further. Some permanent damage may occur.

Diagnosing The Problem

At first, we will do a physical and basic audiological examination. This includes looking into the ears, where tumors can be forming. If a mass is found, an auditory brainstem response test will be done. This is a test using electrical currents to test the nerves in the ear on either end. When the current doesn’t pass properly through the canal it means there could be a blockage, which may be a tumor. At that point we will do some form of imaging scan, such as an MRI, to determine for sure that a tumor is present.

Treating The Problem

There are two forms of treatment commonly used for these tumors. First there is surgery, where the tumor is removed entirely from the ear. This comes with a number of risks, including long term damage to the chambers of the ear themselves. Over time these may correct themselves, but sometimes it can cause hearing loss or other issues.

Second is a newer form of treatment called stereotactic radiation therapy. Using a small but powerful dose of radiation, we target the tumor itself. This doesn’t kill the tumor entirely, but shrinks it and keeps it from growing further. Future scans manage the tumor in the long term, reducing the risk of damage. It is gentler on the body, and so safer for those who couldn’t easily withstand the strains of surgery.

Will I Lose My Hearing?

This is always a risk with surgical procedures involving the ears. But the process has been perfected to the point where risks are much lower. Through microsurgery you will have a good chance of walking away without any long term damage.

Find out more at HearingDoctors.net. Call our office to schedule an appointment if you’re interested in learning more about your hearing health.