If you experience hearing loss or ringing in one ear, an acoustic tumor may be the cause. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, we offer expert diagnosis for acoustic tumors to find the right treatment and best care for you.
Learn more about the St. Joseph’s Cancer Institute, our partner in caring for acoustic tumors.
What is an Acoustic Tumor?
An acoustic tumor, or acoustic neuroma, is a rare tumor that grows on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. An acoustic neuroma is benign (non-cancerous) so it will not grow into nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
If left untreated, however, acoustic tumors cause hearing loss and problems with balance as they press on the auditory nerve. If they grow larger, they can also press on facial nerves, causing numbness or paralysis. Acoustic tumors can also press against the brain and cause hydrocephalus, a life-threatening buildup of fluid in the brain.
What Causes Acoustic Tumors?
One risk factor, a genetic disorder known as neurofibromatosis type 2, can cause some acoustic tumors. But, most people with an acoustic neuroma have no family history. Possible risk factors include:
- Exposure to loud noises over a period of time
- Low-level exposure to radiation, especially to the head and neck
Symptoms of an Acoustic Tumor
Many acoustic tumors cause few symptoms early on because they grow very slowly. The most common symptom of an acoustic neuroma is gradual hearing loss in the affected ear. Other symptoms include:
- Ringing (tinnitus) in the affected ear
- Dizziness or an abnormal feeling of movement (vertigo)
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Feeling of fullness in the affected ear, as if it is blocked
- Frequent, unexplained headaches
- Difficulty understanding speech, related to hearing loss
How is Acoustic Tumor Diagnosed?
If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor will perform a physical exam and evaluate your family and medical history. You will also need to undergo one or more of the following tests:
- Hearing test: Evaluation of hearing level and ability to understand speech
- MRI: Imaging test that takes detailed pictures of your brain to find an acoustic tumor
- Auditory brainstem response test: Nerve test that assesses how well your hearing nerves are working
Treatments for Acoustic Tumor
Some people with acoustic tumors may not need treatment. If so, your doctor will recommend regular checkups, usually with MRI scans, to monitor your tumor’s growth.
Your doctor will create the right treatment plan for you based on the tumor’s size, your age, hearing level and overall health. Among the options we offer are:
- Surgery: Procedures that remove the acoustic neuroma
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: Radiation therapy that targets the tumor and minimizes damage to nearby, healthy tissue
Learn more about stereotactic radiosurgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
For more information or for a physician referral, please call (813) 644-4322.