Acoustic neuromas (also called vestibular schwannomas) are non-cancerous brain tumors that can lead to hearing loss and ear conditions if left untreated. There are surgical and non-surgical treatment options, all with risks and benefits. At your consultation, we will help you make an informed decision for your procedure, but it can be helpful to know about your options before.
What Are Acoustic Neuromas?
Acoustic neuromas are one of the most common types of benign brain tumors that develops from the balance nerves. They grow slowly and are not life-threatening, but they can cause hearing loss, tinnitus (ear ringing), dizziness, and balance problems as they grow. Significant growth can also impact other nerves connected to the facial muscles and blood vessels which could cause additional symptoms like facial numbness. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to schedule a consultation with an otolaryngologist or audiologist who can perform an MRI or CT scan to diagnose the presence of a tumor.
Surgical Options for Acoustic Neuromas
Surgery may be recommended to completely or partially remove the tumorous mass. There are three approaches that can be considered. An option for patients with smaller tumors who have a chance at hearing preservation is the retrosigmoid approach. An incision will be made farther back on the scalp so that the surgeon has a complete view of the facial nerve, hearing nerve, and brainstem. Another option for small tumors, and the most common approach, is the middle fossa approach. An incision will be made above the ear and a portion of the skull is removed to access the neuroma.
Translabyrinthine surgery is generally used for large tumors that have caused significant hearing loss. This is the most complex surgery that may require the removal of the cochlea in the inner ear; removing the cochlea will cause people to lose all hearing which is why this option is only considered when it is not possible to preserve hearing.
It’s understandable that not every patient wants to go through an invasive surgical procedure, and it’s not always necessary. The Gamma Knife and CyberKnife are two forms of radiosurgery or radiation therapy that use precise beams of low-level radiation to prevent tissue growth. These are effective options, but it’s important to note that the tumor is not removed so there is the potential for it to grow back. Patients will receive regular imaging to make sure the acoustic neuroma does not continue to grow.
Schedule a Consultation
Hearing that you might have a brain tumor can sound scary but acoustic neuromas are benign and relatively easy to treat. Associates of Otolaryngology specializes in a variety of ear and hearing-related disorders, and we will be happy to discuss your concerns in greater detail and answer any questions you might have when you schedule a consultation with our team.