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Skull Base Conditions

What is Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumor that forms on the vestibular nerve – the nerve which runs from the inner ear to the brain and is responsible for balance. Relatively rare and slow-growing, acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas because they are caused by an overproduction of Schwann cells – the cells that wrap around and protect the vestibular nerve. As the tumor grows, it can press against the hearing and facial nerves and affect the person’s hearing, balance or facial movements.

Your health is important. Don’t delay your care.

If you have been diagnosed with or are experiencing symptoms of acoustic neuroma, it is essential to consult with a UH ENT specialist as soon as possible. Call 440-732-3821 today to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with an ENT skull base specialist.

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What Causes Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma can be unilateral (one ear) or bilateral (both ears) with unilateral being the most common type. Although it can develop at any age, it is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 60.

The exact cause of unilateral acoustic neuroma is unknown, but it is believed that environmental factors like past radiation therapy to the head and neck may increase an individual’s risk of developing this type of tumor. Bilateral acoustic neuroma is an inherited condition that can run in families and is associated with a genetic problem called neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2).

UH ENT Specialists Have the Expertise to Diagnose Acoustic Neuroma

The symptoms of acoustic neuroma can be very similar to those experienced with other middle and inner ear problems and may include:

  • Hearing reduction or loss on one side
  • Inability to hear high-frequency sounds
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Facial numbness, facial weakness and tingling (rare, but can occur in large tumors)
  • Headaches
  • Mental confusion

Because of the wide variety of possible symptoms, acoustic neuromas can only be diagnosed by specially trained ear, nose and throat specialists. The ENT experts at University Hospitals will conduct a careful evaluation of each patient, including a medical history, physical exam and hearing test. In addition, diagnostic imaging tests such as CT or MRI will likely be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the location and size of the tumor so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed.

Personalized Treatment Plans for Patients with Acoustic Neuroma

The treatment goal for patients with acoustic neuroma is to maintain hearing and balance, avoid facial paralysis and reduce any pain associated with the condition. In addition, if the tumor has grown large enough to press against the brain stem, treatment will be necessary to stop the growth of the tumor, shrink it or surgically remove it before it affects neurological function which can, in rare cases, be life threatening.

Each patient’s diagnostic and treatment team will include a variety of highly trained specialists and may include general otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists), otologists/neurotologists (ear and skull base surgeons), neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, facial plastic surgeons, audiologists and physical therapists. Your team will work in close collaboration with you to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your unique needs.

Treatment plans will be determined based on your symptoms, age and general health and may include one or more of the following:

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