What is an Acoustic Neuroma?
Acoustic neuroma is a non-malignant tumour that develops on the hearing and balance nerves which supply the inner ear. It is an overproduction of the cells which line the nerves called Schwann cells thus can also be known as vestibular schwannoma. It is usually slow growing and only one sided (unilateral) but can cause significant problems to the vestibular system.
What causes an Acoustic Neuroma?
Acoustic Neuromas have no hereditary link and there are no known direct causes of the tumour. It can develop in any individual although it tends to be most prevalent between the ages of 30-60 years old.
What are the symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma?
As the tumour grows it places direct pressure on the nerves affecting their normal functioning thus causing possible symptoms such as:
- Unilateral hearing loss
- Balance problems
- Unilateral facial numbness (from the trigeminal nerve compression)
- Unilateral facial weakness
How is Acoustic Neuroma diagnosed?
While the symptoms can be very mild initially and difficult to distinguish between other inner ear problems these test can identify the tumour and will then help to plan the treatment of the condition.Possible tests include:
- Examination of the ears
- Hearing tests
- MRI/CT scans
- Blood tests
What is the medical treatment of Acoustic Neuroma?
There are 3 main options for the treatment of Acoustic Neuroma which depend on the patients overall health and the size and severity of the symptoms.
If the tumour is detected early and the size and position is operable this is the first treatment option. If the tumour is small then symptoms can not affect normal function. However surgical removal can make the symptoms worse if the neuroma is too large as they need remove some of the nerve as well as the tumour. In this case vestibular rehabilitation with a specialist physiotherapist can help to improve the residual symptoms.
Radiotherapy or radiosurgery is another alternative which can reduce the size of the Acoustic Neuroma and limit its progression. This may be employed in the more elderly population or people with only hearing symptoms.
Monitoring the Acoustic Neuroma is the final option which tends to be the management used in the patient who has poor health. Repeat investigation would be completed to look at the tumours growth and effect on symptoms.
How can physiotherapy help with Acoustic Neuroma?
Physiotherapy rehabilitation of Acoustic Neuroma is normally post-surgical. The vestibular system relies on the correct messages being sent between the ears and the brain to keep the body stable and balance system correct. Due to the position of the tumour surgery can affect the normal function of these nerves and rehabilitation can help in restoring function or teaching the brain to compensate for the permanent damage.
What physiotherapy will be used to treat Acoustic Neuroma?
The physiotherapy used by Physio.co.uk will depend on your symptoms and the severity of them. Your treatment plan will be adjusted at regular intervals as you improve and each plan is personalised to your symptoms and goals. The physiotherapists at Physio.co.uk will encourage you to take an active role in your treatment as this will optimise the outcome of your physiotherapy. Physiotherapy may include:
- Symptom management advice
- Statistic Balance retraining exercises
- Dynamic Balance retraining exercises
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) using eye and head movement exercises
Acoustic Neuroma is a non-malignant tumour that affects the vestibular nerves. This causes symptoms including dizziness, hearing loss and balance issues. Physiotherapy is a successful way of managing the symptoms remaining post Acoustic Neuroma and it is important to begin a treatment programme as soon as you can.
For further information or to make an appointment to see one of our specialist physiotherapist please call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800. Alternatively, you can also book an appointment online using our online booking system.