If You Notice This With Your Hearing, Get Checked for a Brain Tumor

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Many people don’t consider their brain health until a problem arises. But experts say there’s one form of slow-growing brain tumor that’s unlikely to cause symptoms in its earliest stages, and only subtle symptoms after that. When this particular type of mass forms, it can affect your hearing—which could tip you off to the problem and allow you to get treatment sooner.

Read on to learn which hearing-related symptoms could suggest a brain tumor, and what other surprising symptoms may also appear.

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Acoustic neuroma, sometimes called vestibular schwannoma, is a slow-growing, benign type of tumor that can grow on the vestibular nerve, which leads from your inner ear to your brain. Because this particular type of tumor is noncancerous, it does not spread from the vestibular nerve to other areas of the body. However, it can cause certain symptoms as the tumor gets larger if it presses on the surrounding nerves or brain tissue.

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People with acoustic neuroma may notice two key symptoms that affect their hearing: hearing loss, and ringing in the ears—also known as tinnitus. This happens because as the tumor grows on the vestibular nerve, the increasing pressure can begin to interfere with its function.

These symptoms tend to get worse over the course of months or years, and will affect only the ear on the side the tumor is located. Once hearing is lost from acoustic neuroma, it will not return.

Both hearing loss and tinnitus are common and may have other underlying causes, including ear injury or infection, circulatory problems, inner ear damage, or a blockage. However, if the issue occurs on just one side, your doctor will likely want to check for an acoustic neuroma.

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If you do suspect acoustic neuroma, it can help to be aware of corroborating symptoms, which may help point to a diagnosis. Experts say people with this particular form of brain tumor may experience unsteadiness or loss of balance, vertigo, facial numbness or weakness, or loss of movement in the facial muscles. Small acoustic neuromas are typically asymptomatic, causing no notable signs of a problem.

There is, however, some good news. While acoustic neuromas can cause lasting complications to one’s hearing and coordination, “death from these tumors is rare if they are properly diagnosed and treated,” say experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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If you are diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, a few different courses of treatment will be available to you. In the event that your tumor is smaller and less advanced, your doctor may recommend monitoring the growth using MRIs, or trying radiation therapy.

In cases of larger or more advanced acoustic neuromas where symptoms are present, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor. “If a growing acoustic neuroma is left untreated, it can cause a dangerous buildup of fluid in the brain or it can compress the cerebellum and brain stem, which can be life threatening,” explain Johns Hopkins experts. “The goal of surgery is the complete removal of the tumor without harming the seventh cranial nerve (which controls facial movement) or causing hearing loss,” the National Brain Tumor Society adds.

Speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of acoustic neuroma or any other condition that affects your hearing or neurological health.

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