Learn more about the 4 main causes of tinnitus

  • tinnitus from noise damage
  • tinnitus from trauma or stress
  • tinnitus from allergies or sinus
  • tinnitus from meniere's disease

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Understanding Acoustic Neuroma and Tinnitus

[imwb_socialbuzz] By John On August 25, 2011 Under Ringing In Ears

An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that grows on the vestibulocochlear nerve (also called acoustic or auditory nerve), which is the nerve responsible for transmitting auditory information from the inner ears to the brain. This nerve is also known as the 8th cranial nerve, and is the hearing and balance nerve. Hence, a tumor on this nerve can cause hearing and balance problems. A growing benign tumor on the acoustic nerve can lead to unilateral hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Hence, acoustic neuroma and tinnitus can occur at the same time.

Acoustic neuroma can be also called vestibular schwannoma. Compared to other causes of hearing loss, it is relatively an uncommon one. The tumor grows slowly in usual cases, but in rare cases the tumor grows rapidly. A rapidly growing tumor on the nerve can exert pressure on surrounding tissues and organs like the brain. When it presses against the brain, it disrupts the important functions of the affected part. The symptoms arise as the neighboring structures, nerves, brain tissue, and blood vessels are affected. However, the tumor does not need to grow in size for symptoms to manifest. Even a relatively small tumor can give rise to significant symptoms.

Symptoms of acoustic neuroma are hearing loss, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, vertigo or dizziness, and facial numbness or weakness. The hearing loss associated with acoustic neuroma and tinnitus is usually more pronounced on one side or only occurs on one side. The development of hearing impairment in people with the disorder is gradual. Tinnitus is also on one side only or more obvious on one ear. The growth of tumor on the vestibulocochlear nerve disrupts signals that register balance on the brain. As a result patients suffer from loss of balance. Facial numbness, on the other hand, is a result of the tumor pressing against the trigeminal nerve. Rarely, the tumor can grow too big that it causes life-threatening pressure to the brainstem.

Acoustic Neuroma And TinnitusThere is no need to wait for the symptoms to become worse before you seek doctor’s attention. Once you suffer from muffled hearing on one ear, ringing in one ear, and vertigo or dizziness, you have to see your doctor. Consider going to your doctor even more if you are suffering from these symptoms often. Even though the disorder rarely is life-threatening, it still needs to be seen and monitored. This way, the symptoms can be managed more appropriately.
How the tumor develops remains vague, but experts point out that it has something to do with a genetic mutation. The frequency of such tumors occurring in the population is meager. Only from ten to thirteen people in every one million have the problem, but there is no precise data on this. Studies also suggest that the disorder is not inherited. In other words, it occurs randomly among people.

It seems that many disorders involving the structures in the inner ears are hard to understand. Acoustic neuroma and tinnitus are two conditions that are difficult to understand. Tinnitus is just one of the symptoms of a tumor growing on the acoustic nerve, but it can also appear as a symptom of other disorders like temporomandibular joint misalignment or Meniere’s disease. The cure for tinnitus depends on the primary disorder that causes it. If it is caused by acoustic neuroma, then this disorder should be treated.

There are different ways to treat and manage acoustic neuroma. The simplest way to treat it is by plain monitoring to find out if it is growing rapidly or not. Such benign tumor does not usually grow fast, but there are cases when it develops rapidly and cause drastic symptoms. Monitoring is done through imaging and hearing tests which are done once or twice a year. The aim is to observe the growth rate of the tumor and to check the rate at which hearing impairment proceeds.

A type of treatment for acoustic neuroma involves the use of gamma radiation. It is called stereotactic radiosurgery, which is a method that delivers radiation to the tumor. There is no need to make an incision. Instead, a doctor uses imaging scans and directs radiation beams to the tumor. This option can work if your tumor is small, and it may also be used to acoustic neuroma in people who do not need invasive surgical procedure. However, it takes time for this procedure to take effect, and there are risks, too, such as hearing loss, balance problems, and facial weakness.

In dire cases, the tumor on the nerve should be removed surgically. Doctors try their best to remove the tumor without affecting the facial nerve to avoid facial paralysis. Utmost care is exercised to limit the damage done to the nerve itself. Damaged acoustic nerve can lead to deafness. The patient needs to stay in the hospital for about a week. Recuperation takes more than a month. This one has worse risks due to the greater chances of structures being affected during the surgery. Sometimes, instead of alleviating the problem it worsens it. Doctors should explain to their patients the possible complications of the operation.

People with acoustic neuroma and tinnitus should be able to deal with the discomfort and the bothersome symptoms. Reading information about this condition is important in knowing it. Aside from that, you can also get information from your own doctor and from other patients as well.