Acoustic neuroma is the condition in which a non-cancerous tumor occurs on the nerve connecting the ear and the brain. The worldwide prevalence of this condition is in 1 out of 100,000 people and it is primarily seen in people aged between 50 and 70 years of age. The initial growth of the tumor is rather slow and there may be no symptoms. As the tumor grows, it presses against the nerves responsible for balance and hearing, causing symptoms to develop. The exact causes of acoustic neuroma are unknown. However, studies have shown that there is an indication of a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis 2 that could be a key player in causing this condition. In cases of tumors caused due to neurofibromatosis, the nerves on both ears could be affected. Read on to explore the symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma.
Signs & Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuroma
The most common symptom of Acoustic Neuroma is hearing impairment, which is caused due to the tumor affecting a portion of the eighth cranial nerve. Any patient affected with this will exhibit poor ability to understand spoken words, with particular difficulty in telephone use. Usually, this symptom is subtle in the beginning, but it worsens with time. Some patients may complain of a sense of fullness in the affected ear. Since hearing loss is often mild and painless, this complication might often go undetected in the initial stages.
Tinnitus (Ringing in the ears)
Patients suffering from Acoustic Neuroma may complain of a ringing, hissing or other sound in the ears or head. In most cases, the tinnitus is high pitched and localized to the tumor ear. Tinnitus can be irregular or constant, often including one or multiple tones, while its perceived volume can range from subtle to overwhelming. Thus, unilateral tinnitus occurring without explanation is an indication that the patient might be suffering from Acoustic Neuroma.
There is a possibility that a person suffering from Acoustic Neuroma shows signs of vertigo too, though chances of it are remote. The tumor usually crops up from the vestibular nerve, which is accountable for balance in our bodies. Growth of tumors can lead to instability in our bodies. Vertigo isn’t a common sign for it though and may only appear during the early stages of tumor and subside with time.
Imbalance or instability is prominent amongst most of the patients suffering from Acoustic Neuroma. Unlike vertigo, instability worsens in a patient with time. The most likely mechanism involved in causing disequilibrium is uncompensated unilateral vestibular differentiation or persistent perverse input from the diseased vestibular nerve.
The later stages of Acoustic Neuroma can lead to pressure or headache that can be either dull or sharp and one-sided. As the tumor develops, the lump starts to press upon the lining of the inside of the skull (the dura). The dura has sensory fibers that can transmit the sensation of pressure. Most often, the headache may spread out to the neck, top of the head or front of the head.
Facial Weakness & Numbness
Acoustic Neuroma often leads to muscle innervations that leads to facial weakness. As the tumor expands, the pressure is felt on the facial nerves. This might, in turn, affect spontaneous facial expressions and lead to spasms in facial nerves. Pressure on facial nerves can also lead to drying of tears as well as numbness or tingling on face. Facial sensations can be hugely disrupted as the tumor expands.