How Can You Manage The Symptoms Of An Acoustic Neuroma?

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Acoustic Neuroma (AN) is a subtype of vestibular schwannoma, a form of slow-growing brain tumour that develops in the area between the ear and the brain. It is non-cancerous, but it can cause life-changing symptoms. The biggest challenges faced by people with AN are often hearing and balance disturbances. 

According to the Brain Tumour Charity, ANs account for about 8 per cent of all primary brain tumours. They can be diagnosed at any age, although they most often affect people between the ages of 40 and 60. The majority of ANs occur in people with no family history of these types of tumours, and it is not fully understood what causes them.

The most common symptoms of ANs are hearing loss, often on one side; tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ear); numbness or weakness in the facial muscles; dizziness or vertigo; difficulties with balance; persistent headaches; vision disturbances; a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing; and poor limb coordination on one side of the body. 

The symptoms are caused by the tumour pressing on the balance, hearing and facial nerves. If the tumour remains untreated, it may become large enough to press on the brain, which can cause more serious problems.

How are ANs diagnosed?

If you are concerned about any of the above symptoms, you should visit your GP. If your doctor thinks that your symptoms might be caused by an AN, they will arrange some tests and refer you to a specialist. The medical tests may include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a computerised tomography (CT) scan, and a hearing test.

How are ANs treated?

The treatment for AN may depend on the type, location  and size of the tumour, the severity of the symptoms, and the general health of the patient. They are often very slow growing, and therefore require regular monitoring rather than active treatment. Larger tumours may be completely or partially removed by surgery.

Smaller tumours or any parts of the tumour remaining after surgery may be treated with stereotactic surgery. This is not traditional surgery that involves incision, but is a method of delivering precisely focussed radiation beams from an external machine to destroy the tumour cells. 

Research into new brain tumour treatments is ongoing, but it is a sector that has been historically underfunded, particularly in the field of non-cancerous tumours. 

Managing the symptoms of AN

One of the biggest issues faced by people living with AN is difficulty with balance. The British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA) explains that regular exercise can help to manage the problem. During April, the charity is running a campaign to raise awareness of AN and asking participants to complete 5,000 steps a day for 10 days.

In a statement on their website, the charity comments: “Living with conditions that affect balance function can be challenging, but incorporating regular movement into your daily routine is crucial for maintaining and even improving balance.”

“Movement helps to strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and enhance proprioception, which is your body’s ability to sense its position in space. By engaging in activities such as walking, stretching or yoga, you can build strength in the muscles that support balance and improve overall stability.”

“Movement can also help to boost confidence and reduce the risk of falls, ultimately leading to a better quality of life.”

Sometimes, an AN may grow very slowly over a number of years, and they may be diagnosed after a person has been noticing difficulties with their hearing. The Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) runs a free online hearing test that takes just three minutes, and the charity offers further support and advice for people living with hearing loss.

Deaf Awareness Week is coming up on May 6-12 this year, with the aim to raise the visibility of the challenges faced by people with hearing impairments. Unfortunately, deafness can still carry a stigma, and lead to discrimination at work, and difficulties with communication and personal relationships.

Hearing impairment is estimated to affect about 12 million adults in the UK, and it can cause loneliness and social isolation, as well as making everyday life and employment difficult. There are technology assistive devices that can help people with hearing loss, and some people may learn sign language or lip reading. 

If you would like some more information about acoustic neuroma treatment, please contact Mr Patrick Grover of Amethyst Radiotherapy.