What is an acoustic neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma (AN) is a slow growing tumor that forms on the nerves of your ear. The nerves help control your balance and hearing. AN normally only forms on one side.
What causes an acoustic neuroma?
The exact cause is not known. It occurs when your nerve cells grow out of control. This forms the tumor. You may be at higher risk for AN if you have neurofibromatosis 2.
What are the signs and symptoms of an acoustic neuroma?
- You have partial or total hearing loss in one or both ears.
- You have numbness, weakness, or twitching in your face.
- Your ears ring.
- You have poor balance or trouble walking.
- You feel dizzy.
- Your eyes feel dry.
- You have headaches.
- You have a metal taste in your mouth.
How is an acoustic neuroma diagnosed?
Tell your healthcare provider about any symptoms or medical conditions you have. You may need the following tests:
- Hearing test: A hearing test checks how sensitive your ears are to sounds at different volumes. This test will check for hearing loss.
- A CT , or CAT scan, takes pictures of your skull and brain. You may be given contrast liquid before the scan. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
- An MRI of the head takes pictures of your brain, blood vessels, and skull. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
How is an acoustic neuroma treated?
You may not need treatment. Your healthcare provider may decide to watch for any changes in the size of the AN.
- Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
- Surgery: The kind of surgery you need will depend on the size and location of your AN. Your level of hearing loss will also help decide which surgery is best for you.
- Radiation: You may need radiation to shrink your AN. You may have radiation in a single or multiple treatments. Radiation may be done before or after you have surgery.
What are the risks of an acoustic neuroma?
- Your symptoms may get worse even with treatment. Radiation treatments may cause your brain to bleed or swell. Surgery may cause bleeding, pain, or a scar. Fluid from your brain may leak out of your surgery site or from your nose. You may get an infection at the surgery site, or in your brain. Your AN may not go away completely or may return.
- Without treatment, your tumor may continue to grow and damage your nerves and other areas of your brain. The tumor may press against nerves and cause facial numbness, weakness, or twitching. You may lose your hearing, ability to keep your balance, or ability to walk. The tumor may grow and cause fluid to build up around your brain. Your tumor may press against areas of your brain, and you may have a stroke. This can be life-threatening.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have new headaches or dizziness.
- You have new or worse hearing loss or ringing in your ears.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate help?
Seek help immediately or call 911 if:
- You have a sudden severe headache.
- You have new or worsening trouble walking or staying balanced.
- You suddenly have facial numbness, or cannot move parts of your face.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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