What are the symptoms of an acoustic neuroma?
A small acoustic neuroma may cause no symptoms. If you do have symptoms from an acoustic neuroma, these usually develop very gradually, as the growth (tumour) is slow-growing. The symptoms that an acoustic neuroma can cause are very common. Remember that acoustic neuromas are very rare. You should see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, but they are more likely to be due to other conditions than a brain tumour.
The most common symptoms of an acoustic neuroma are:
- Hearing loss. Some degree of deafness occurs in most people with an acoustic neuroma. Usually hearing loss is gradual and affects one ear. The type of deafness caused is called sensorineural deafness and means the nerve for hearing (the acoustic nerve) is damaged.
- Tinnitus. This is the medical name for ringing in the ears. About 7 in 10 people with an acoustic neuroma have tinnitus in one ear. The sounds can vary; it does not have to be ringing like a bell. Tinnitus describes any sounds heard within the ear when there is no external sound being made. Tinnitus is a common symptom and not a disease in itself. Other causes of tinnitus include earwax, ear infections, ageing and noise-induced hearing loss.
Other, common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include:
- Vertigo. This is the sensation of the room spinning, often described as dizziness. It is not a fear of heights as some people incorrectly think. This feeling of movement occurs even when you are standing still. Vertigo can be caused by other conditions affecting the inner ear. Nearly half of people with an acoustic neuroma have this symptom, but less than 1 in 10 have it as their first symptom.
- Loss of feeling (facial numbness), tingling or pain. These symptoms are due to pressure from the acoustic neuroma on other nerves. The commonly affected nerve is called the trigeminal nerve which controls feeling in the face. About 1 in 4 people with acoustic neuroma have some facial numbness - this is a more common symptom than weakness of the facial muscles. However, it is often an unnoticed symptom. Similar symptoms can occur with other problems, such as trigeminal neuralgia or a tumour growing on the facial nerve (a facial neuroma).
Less common symptoms of acoustic neuroma are:
- Headache. This is a relatively rare symptom of an acoustic neuroma. It can occur if the tumour is big enough to block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is the clear, nourishing fluid that flows around the brain and spinal cord, protecting the delicate structures from physical and chemical harm. Obstruction to the flow and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid can cause a problem known as 'water on the brain' (hydrocephalus). This results in increased pressure and swelling, and the brain effectively becomes squashed within the skull. This can cause headache and, if untreated, brain damage.
- Earache. This is another rare symptom of acoustic neuroma. There are many more common causes of earache.
- Visual problems. Again, these are a rare symptom. If they do happen, it is due to hydrocephalus (see above).
- Tiredness and lack of energy. These are nonspecific symptoms and can be due to many causes. It is possible that a non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour could lead to this.
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