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What is the Treatment for an Auditory Neuroma?

By Nicole Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several different treatment options available for auditory neuromas, including observation, surgery, and radiation treatment. Auditory neuromas, also referred to as acoustic neuromas or vestibular schwannomas, are tumors. Growing from the nerves within the ear, acoustic neuromas are often non-cancerous, or benign.

Originating from the vestibulocochlear nerve, auditory neuromas arise from the Schwann cells that form the protective covering, or sheath, of the nerve. Growth of the tumor can impinge on surrounding structures of the ear canal, brainstem, and temporal bone. Without appropriate observation or treatment, an auditory neuroma can cause a host of symptoms.

While they are typically benign, an auditory neuroma can grow over time, leading to a gradual decrease in hearing. Other symptoms related to an auditory neuroma include dizziness and a ringing sound in the ear. In severe cases, growth can compress the brainstem and cause persistent headaches and problems with vision.

Depending on the size of the neuroma and the health and age of the patient, a physician may recommend continual observation. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests are used to monitor growth each year. This allows the physician to track changes over time and make further treatment recommendations based on growth of the auditory neuroma and symptoms the patient may be experiencing.

Typically, surgery is recommended for auditory neuromas. Surgeons attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible while still maintaining facial nerve function and hearing. In most cases, any part of the tumor that is attached to a critical nerve will be left and monitored. Even if surgeons can remove the entire tumor, tumor recurrence is a possibility.

Surgeons can use several surgical methods to reach and remove auditory neuromas. Depending on the size and location, surgeons may enter behind the ear, through the ear, or above the ear. An approach through the ear canal is reserved for those already experiencing total hearing loss.

For smaller tumors, radiation is an option. This treatment method allows physicians to direct measured doses of radiation at the tumor. With radiation, physicians attempt to stop the growth of the tumor. In some cases, radiation may reduce the size of the tumor but it will not remove the tumor. Follow-up includes continual monitoring with MRI scans to keep an eye on changes occurring with the tumor.

Those living with the effects of auditory neuromas may need additional treatment to help with the symptoms and side effects of auditory neuromas. This can include the use of hearing aids and exercise to improve balance. Further testing, such as ongoing hearing tests and facial nerve function evaluation, will also be required to adequately treat the damage auditory neuromas can cause.

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