Although it’s rare, research shows that the ringing in your ear could be related to a growth on your auditory nerve: not inside your brain, but inside your head.
Read on to learn when you need to tell your doctor about this, and when you need to get an MRI neuro-imaging or a hearing test study to really know what’s going on.
The Auditory Nerve
Occasionally, there’s a group of cells on your auditory nerve that can grow into a tumor. The auditory nerve shares the same space as your balance nerve, and that goes from your ear into your brain. Having this growth on your auditory nerve can affect your hearing or your balance systems. This is called an acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma.
Although it’s possible for you to have an acoustic neuroma on your nerve, it’s not very likely. A 2014 study showed that only 1-2% of people who report the classic symptoms of hearing loss or ringing in the ear on one side actually turned out to have a vestibular schwannoma. Another study showed that only about 60% of individuals with an acoustic neuroma actually reported tinnitus or ringing in the ear before they got surgery.
Can Tinnitus Be Life Threatening?
In short, when people do have a brain tumor tinnitus doesn’t always accompany it, and vice versa.
I know that it can feel scary if you’re not sure whether you have a growth on your auditory nerve. Just remember that unless your symptoms are causing significant problems in your daily life, you’re probably fine to continue on day by day until you have that next appointment with the specialists that I’ll recommend.
When To See A Doctor For Tinnitus
So if you have any of the following symptoms, take note: ringing in one ear, hearing loss in one ear, facial numbness, ear pain, dizziness, vertigo (where the room is spinning), headaches, or migraines. If you have any combination of those symptoms, I strongly recommend contacting your doctor to let them know. Your doctor may order a hearing test, an MRI, or a neuroimaging study to see what’s going on past the eardrum.
Tinnitus from brain tumor is unlikely to be your case, but by consulting with your doctor, you can start to address your symptoms and whatever may be causing them.
I’ve done many hearing tests on patients with tinnitus, hearing loss, or dizziness on one side, and I’ve referred them to an ear, nose and throat medical clinic to have a full diagnostic evaluation done. That would include the neuroimaging study to get a full picture of what’s going on.
Hearing Aids For Acoustic Neuroma
I’ve also been on the other side of it, where as an audiologist, I’ve fit hearing aids or done a hearing test on patients who have gone through with surgery for an acoustic neuroma. Typically, those patients have to talk with their doctor about what the risks and benefits of the procedure would be. Oftentimes, if you go through with that procedure, it does involve losing part of your hearing.
Rest assured that typically, an acoustic neuroma growth on the auditory nerve is a very slow-growing condition. Actually, my grandfather has this and he’s gone 10 years with the growth on his nerve. His doctors monitor it every year and it’s really not that big of a problem for him. But I don’t recommend that you just go ahead and say well, it’s not a big deal for me. I recommend that you talk to your doctor regarding what you can do about it.
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