An acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma is a slow growing and noncancerous tumor that originates from the Schwann cells of the vestibular nerve (8th cranial nerve). Since the vestibular nerve influences the hearing and balance, pressure from the acoustic neuroma can result in many symptoms. The term “acoustic neuroma” is a misnomer as the tumor arises from the Schwann cells of the vestibular division of the vestibulocochlear nerve. It is estimated that about 2,000 to 3,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States annually.
Some studies have shown that the incidence has been increased throughout the years (which may be due to advances in magnetic resonance imaging scanning). It is mostly diagnosed in those between the ages of 30 and 60, with both men and women to be equally affected. While most acoustic neuromas spontaneously occur, one risk factor includes the rare genetic mutation of neurofibromatosis type 2.
Symptom #1: Hearing Loss
Hearing loss or hearing impairment occurs when there is decreased ability to inability to hear. It may occur in one or both ears. Hearing loss is important especially in children as it can affect the ability to learn language while in adults, it may lead to work related difficulties. In older people, hearing loss can lead to loneliness and depression.
Hearing loss can occur in aging, exposure to loud noises, birth complications, ear trauma, and as a side effect of medications. It is also the main symptom reported by patients with acoustic neuroma.