What is Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic Neuroma is also referred to as vestibular schwannoma. Acoustic Neuroma is a non-cancerous or a benign tumor that grows on the cranial-nerve that leads to the inner ear to the brain. The cranial nerve has two dissimilar parts; one part is charged with posting balance information from a person’s inner ear to the brain while the other transmits sound enabling one to hear.

The Acoustic Neuroma tumor is not very common and occurs very rarely. There are some studies that have been done and they indicate that Acoustic Neuroma occurs in only 20 people in every one million of the population. Acoustic Neuroma is much more widespread in women than in men. It is also more prevalent in adults who are between the ages of 40-60 years. It is not as common in children.

The Acoustic Neuroma normally develops slowly in over a number of years. They grow in size and in cases where they get very large, the growth puts pressure on the brain. The rate of the growth can in some instances be very slow. The tumor projects from the auditory canal into the cerebellopontine angle which is an area at the rear of the temporal bone. The tumor at this point is pear shaped and its’ minute end being inside the internal-auditory canal.

Big tumors may put pressure on the trigeminal nerve which is responsible for facial sensitivity. Crucial body functions that help in sustaining life are threatened when the tumor grows large. This is because the tumor now exerts pressure on the cerebellum and the brainstem.

Acoustic Neuroma tumors do not spread to other body parts. This means that they are not malignant. However, if left untreated the tumors can grow in a very aggressive manner and result permanent and severe damage to the brain tissue, ears and nerves. Balance problems and hearing loss may not be irreversible even after radiation or surgery has been done to treat the tumor. Hearing is normally not affected if the tumor is detected and treated early.

An Acoustic Neuroma growth is usually not life-threatening but in some cases, the symptoms might cause complications in the patients’ life. Some patients suffering from Acoustic Neuroma experience a ringing sound in their ears and dizziness. Others experience facial numbness, tingling or pain. Other common symptoms include; headaches, earache, fatigue and visual problems. These symptoms affect the quality of life of the patient.

Hydrocephalus is a rare but serious complication of Acoustic Neuroma. Hydrocephalus normally occurs when pressure is exerted on the brainstem. The brainstem is connected to the spinal cord and this condition results in the blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluids. These fluids flow between the brain and the spinal cord. If there is no flow of the cerebrospinal fluids, then delicate brain structures are compressed. This causes headaches and brain damage that can be fatal or permanent.

It is advisable to seek medical attention as early as possible even in cases where the tumor is small. The more the tumor gets, the more life threatening it becomes and if left untreated then it becomes fatal.