Acoustic neuromas, or ANs, are typically very slow growing benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors which arise on one of the cranial nerves in the internal auditory canal (IAC). If you have one, or know someone who has, there is no reason to panic. You probably have plenty of time to research the various treatment options and find the best doctor. (If the tumor is large and pressing against the brainstem, there is more urgency, but the doctor who made the diagnosis will have told you that already.)
Typical symptoms before treatment:
- unilateral hearing loss (on one side only). This often occurs suddenly (sudden hearing loss or SHL) but it can be very gradual, over months or years. In most acoustic neuroma patients the loss is more pronounced in the higher frequencies. Unilateral hearing loss is usually the first symptom that leads to discovery of this bening brain tumor. It should lead your ENT (ear doctor) to have an MRI scan done to confirm or rule out an acoustic neuroma.
- tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears). Not all patients with tinnitus have a brain tumor and not all acoustic neuroma patients have tinnitus. Most of them do however, both before and after treatment.
- ears plugged. Acoustic neuroma patients sometimes complain of a feeling that their ear is plugged or "full".
- balance problems, vertigo. Acoustic neuromas patients often experience balance problems before diagnosis but it occurs very gradually and may go unnoticed. The body has many compensating mechanisms. So the patient may not even be aware of having any problem with balance until specific tests are carried out.
- headaches. Acoustic neuroma patients sometimes recall, after diagnosis, that they had unexplained headaches before. Obviously, there are many things that cause headaches other than brain tumors, so this is not a very specific symptom to look for.
- facial pain, numbness, paralysis. Acoustic neuromas are nowdays usually discovered before they cause facial symptoms. However, if they are large or impacting on one of the nerves that cause facial pain or numbness or even facial paralysis it can happen before diagnosis.
- Eye problems: dry eye, double vision. These symptoms are rare before diagnosis of the tumor. They may be experienced after certain types of surgery.
- cognitive problems, depression, fatigue. These symptoms occur, but are rare and unspecific. Again, they may be experienced after certain types of surgery.
- hydrocephalus (pressure on the brain). This is very rare until the tumor becomes very large. It can however occur after treatment, both surgical and radiation.
- Seizures, strokes. This only occurs if the tumor remains untreated and becomes very large. At that point treatment may be urgently required to avoid a fatal outcome.
If you feel you may have symptoms typical of acoustic neuroma you will find all the information you need on this site>.