There are a number of unique nerve issues that can develop as a person ages. Some of them have to do with tumor development, although many of the tumors that develop over time are nonmalignant in nature. That’s what happens when an acoustic neuroma begins to form. It begins to grow on a person’s 8th cranial nerve within the Schwann cells and may begin to cause a number of symptoms. It might also be completely asymptomatic.
Statistics on Acoustic Neuromas
1. In the United States, there are only about 3,000 new cases of an acoustic neuroma diagosed every year.
2. The chances of a person developing an acoustic neuroma: 1 in 100,000.
3. There are two different forms of an acoustic neuroma: inherited and sporadic. 95% of the cases that are diagnosed every year are of the sporadic form.
4. Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma usually appear between the ages of 30-60, but may develop at any age.
5. 70% of patients with large tumors on their nerve will have unsteadiness associated with their condition.
6. 1 in 2 patients who has a large acoustic neuroma will also experience some sort of facial disturbance on a regular basis.
7. Facial twitching, also known as facial synkinesis or hemifacial spasm, occurs in about 10% of patients.
8. 40%. That’s the percentage of people with tumors that suffer from frequent headaches before they have a surgery to remove the tumor.
9. Up to 5% of people who are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma will have sudden hearing loss because of the tumor.
10. 95% of people with an acoustic neuroma will have at least some form of hearing loss associated with their condition.
11. Only 1 in 40,000 people who are diagnosed with this condition will develop an inherited acoustic neuroma.
12. Vertigo occurs in 20% of acoustic neuroma cases and is associated with smaller tumors more often than larger ones.
13. Acoustic neuromas comprise about 6% of all intracranial tumors.
14. Of all lesions in the CPA, acoustic neuromas account for 70 -90% of them.
15. The recurrence rate of a tumor is about 3% after surgery and about 14% after a gamma knife procedure.
16. If surgery is eventually required, surgical complications in this situation, such as severe facial nerve weakness, are nearly 100%.
17. People who underwent gamma knife radiosurgery had a 5 and 10 year progression-free survival rate of 93% and 92% respectively with minimal complications.
18. 50%. That’s the percentage of patients that have some level of hearing after a surgery to remove small tumors on the carnial nerve.
19. Two-thirds of patients with a large tumor will have some level of permanent paralysis.
Common Issues and Effects
One of the most common complaints of someone who has an acoustic neuroma is a loss of hearing. Most people who experience hearing loss because of this condition will have one-sided hearing loss. This is usually a gradual process that occurs as hearing becomes less and less noticeable out of one ear, but it has been known to happen suddenly as well. Tinnitus, or a ringing of the ears, is also very common when an acoustic neuroma is present.
Depending on the size of the tumor on the nerve, there may be other conditions present as well. Some people may notice numbness in their face or other nerve issues that are similar to the feeling when a leg or arm falls asleep. People with an acoustic neuroma may have vertigo associated with their condition, unsteadiness, or an overall weakness felt within their facial muscles while still having full feeling.
The most common treatment for an acoustic neuroma is surgery, but gamma knife procedures are becoming more frequent as well. The use of a gamma knife does not make the tumor go away. It instead shrinks the tumor and prevents it from growing in the future. People who have the gamma knife treatment for an acoustic neuorma are typically requested to have one MRI scan of the affected area per year to track progress.
Cause and Treatment
It can be extremely frustrating to have hearing go out of one ear without an explanation. Instead of blaming it on loud music, wearing headphones, or watching the television with the volume turned up too far, consider getting an evaluation from your doctor. There is the chance, albeit a small one, that an acoustic neuroma may be developing.
People hear the word “tumor” and instantly think “cancer” today. Here’s some good news: neuromas are not cancerous. The acoustic neuroma is very much similar to the neuromas in the feet that can develop. Although a small portion of these tumors are inherited, most of them are sporadic and develop for a number of different reasons. If the tumor is accessible, then cortisone injections instead of surgery may be a viable treatment option.
To diagnose an acoustic neuroma, an MRI of the area tends to be the preferred method. Auditory brainstem response tests may also be done to determine if there are impulse blockers along the circuit pathways. Acoustics are also used to confirm a diagnosis, although are not used by themselves because 1 in 1,000 people will have the same acoustics response as someone with an acoustic neuroma. If an MRI is not available and the brainstem response test is abnromal, then the recommended next step is to have a CT scan performed with contrast.
An acoustic neuroma isn’t going to kill someone, but it will cause life to become miserable if the tumor is allowed to continue progressing. Headaches, facial problems, and hearing are all affected by the growth of these tumors. Acting before a tumor is able to become large will enable patients to preserve much of the feeling they have in their face, avoid numbness and paralysis, and potentially even save some of their hearing. That’s why knowing these statistics on acoustic neuromas is so important. By recognizing the symptoms early, fast treatment options can let life continue being normal.