What is Acoustic Neuroma?
The German Integrative Cancer Center is specialized in the treatment of cancers. Acoustic Neuroma is a benign tumour and only in rare cases, natural treatment may be necessary.
Acoustic Neuroma or vestibular schwannoma is a benign tumour that develops on the nerve that connects your inner ear to the brain. It is usually a slow-growing tumour that, although non-invasive, can compress various structures in the brain if it grows out of control. The most commonly affected functions are hearing, balance and facial expressions. The growth itself presents on the eighth cranial nerve, the main nerve connecting the inner ear with the brain. It arises from the Schwann cells, which cover the nerve.
The eighth cranial nerve, known as the vestibulocochlear nerve, consists of two divisions; the vestibular and cochlear ones. The cochlear division is responsible for hearing, while the vestibular division is for balance. An acoustic neuroma will develop on the vestibular division, primarily affecting balance but may affect hearing too by pressing the cochlear division.
It is not considered a prevalent tumour as only one in 100,000 will develop acoustic Neuroma in the US. Although any age group can present with Acoustic Neuroma, people between 40 and 50 are more prone to it.
In general, there are two forms of acoustic Neuroma:
● A sporadic form is the most common.
● A type associated with neurofibromatosis type II accounting for just 5% of acoustic neuromas.
Although the exact cause of Acoustic Neuroma is unknown, what is common in both forms is a gene defect on chromosome 22. This gene, under normal circumstances, suppresses any abnormal growth of the Schwann cells.
Early symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma
Acoustic neuromas are usually silent in the beginning. Early symptoms are subtle and may be attributed to common ageing. As a result, acoustic neuromas are diagnosed when they have already been essentially symptomatic. The first and most common symptom is gradual and unilateral hearing loss. Hearing loss may be accompanied by a ringing sensation in the ear known as tinnitus, together with a sensation of ear fullness.
Other symptoms that may appear are relevant to the pressing properties of the tumour and they are:
● Balance issues due to compromised function of the eighth cranial nerve
● Persistent or intermittent facial numbness and tingling due to facial nerve involvement
● Weakening of the facial muscles due to facial nerve involvement
● Taste disturbances due to other cranial nerves involvement
● Swallowing difficulties due to other cranial nerves involvement
● Hoarseness of the voice due to other cranial nerves involvement
● Headache due to pressing properties of the tumour
● Unsteadiness, due to pressing properties of the tumour
● Confusion due to pressing properties of the tumour
Usually, the nature of the symptoms indicates the severity of the condition. Some symptoms appear in the early stages of the disease while others in later and potentially urgent ones. For example, hearing loss and tinnitus may represent early symptoms, while clumsiness and confusion may indicate an emergency that requires immediate treatment. Whatever the case, medical consultation should occur, regardless of the severity of the symptoms.
What are the risk factors for Acoustic Neuroma?
The main risk factor for Acoustic Neuroma is neurofibromatosis type II. At the same time, the leading risk factor for Acoustic Neuroma is having a first-degree family history with the disease, which is genetic. Neurofibromatosis type II presents benign tumour formations on various nerves of the body. What causes neurofibromatosis type II is a gene defect on chromosome 22.
How is Acoustic Neuroma diagnosed?
Acoustic Neuroma may be challenging to diagnose due to the absence of early and concrete symptomatology. However, diagnosis is established with history taking and clinical investigations. History taking is asking questions to form a picture regarding the patient’s subjective symptoms. After complete history taking, a hearing test, known as audiometry, should be performed. The hearing test will determine whether there is a hearing compromise or not. Finally, imaging will determine the presence or absence of an acoustic neuroma. The two most common imaging methods used to diagnose an acoustic neuroma are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT), which are more efficient.
How to prevent Acoustic Neuroma?
There is no known preventive strategy for acoustic Neuroma. However, one could prevent complications. Some of the permanent complications of acoustic neuromas are the following:
● Hyperacusis, known as hearing loss
● Facial numbness and weakness due to facial nerve injury
● Tinnitus, known as a ringing sensation in the ear
● Hydrocephalus, known as a fluid collection in the brain due to brainstem compression
In general, preventing the complications of acoustic Neuroma means diagnosing it early and treating it efficiently.
How to treat Acoustic Neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma can be managed accordingly, depending on its size and properties. While some acoustic neuromas may need to be observed over time through imaging, others may require surgery or radiation therapy.