Hearing loss in one ear, ringing in the ear, dizziness and loss of balance—these are all signs of a vestibular schwannoma, or an acoustic neuroma. Early diagnosis and treatment of this rare condition can help prevent serious complications from developing later.
Vestibular schwannomas are noncancerous, typically slow-growing tumors that form on the vestibulocochlear nerve connecting the brain and the inner ear. This nerve is responsible for hearing and balance. As tumors grow, they press on the nerve, causing symptoms. Some tumors may grow large enough that they press against the brain and become life-threatening.
Vestibular schwannomas are commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 60. It’s believed that a malfunction of a gene on chromosome 22 is to blame, although why it happens isn’t known. In a very small number of people, an inherited condition called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) can trigger tumor growth (this condition usually affects both ears).
In addition to hearing loss in one ear, ringing in the ear, dizziness and loss of balance, people with vestibular schwannomas may also experience facial numbness or weakness. Permanent hearing loss, difficulties walking and, in the case of large tumors, fluid buildup in the skull (hydrocephalus), can also result.
Ear exams, as well as tests that measure your hearing, balance and neurological function may be performed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans can also identify vestibular schwannomas.
Small or slow-growing tumors that cause few or no symptoms may only require monitoring. Other patients may require surgery to remove the tumor, or radiosurgery (Gamma Knife), which delivers radiation to the tumor to stop its growth without harming the surrounding tissue. Your physician can determine the best treatment for you.
Call The Gamma Knife Center at The Valley Hospital at 201-634-5677 or complete the contact form for more information or to set up a consultation.
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