Cranial Conditions

Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic Neuroma: A benign growth affecting the brain’s auditory nerve, potentially impacting hearing, coordination, and balance.

Understanding Acoustic Neuromas

An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a non-malignant growth that develops on the vestibular cochlear nerve, which lies beneath the brain and behind the ear, connecting the ear to the brain. This nerve plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and hearing. Acoustic neuromas grow slowly and are confined to their origin site, not spreading to other body parts. They can, however, exert pressure on the brain and affect nearby nerves as they increase in size.

Origins of Acoustic Neuromas

The exact causes of acoustic neuromas remain unclear. They might be linked to certain genetic abnormalities or continuous exposure to loud sounds. A history of radiation exposure to the head and neck area could also play a role.

Tumors arise from unchecked cell multiplication, lacking any beneficial physiological function. Normally, tumor suppressor genes regulate cell growth and repair DNA damage, counteracting oncogenes, which can lead to cancer. Mutations in these suppressor genes can lead to uncontrolled cell division and tumor formation. Although the body’s immune system typically eliminates aberrant cells, tumors can secrete substances that impair this immune response, allowing the tumor cells to proliferate unchecked.

Symptoms Associated with Acoustic Neuromas

Given their slow growth, acoustic neuromas may not cause noticeable symptoms initially. However, as they enlarge, symptoms such as hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus (ear ringing) can manifest. Additional symptoms might include headaches, facial numbness, impaired coordination and balance, lethargy, ear discomfort, and cognitive challenges.

Detecting Acoustic Neuromas

The diagnostic process often starts with an audiogram to assess the hearing capability of each ear, which might reveal hearing and speech discrimination loss. Imaging techniques, especially MRI, are effective in detecting even small acoustic neuromas due to their high resolution, although CT scans are also used. An auditory brainstem response (ABR) test might indicate an acoustic neuroma, but such findings typically require confirmation via MRI.

Managing Acoustic Neuromas

Treatment strategies hinge on the tumor’s size and position. While radiation therapy might offer some benefit, surgical intervention is often necessary for complete removal.

This information serves educational purposes only. Consult a healthcare provider for medical guidance. In urgent situations, dial 911 or seek immediate medical assistance.