​Acoustic Neuroma​

Nerve fibres are insulated with special cells called Schwann cells, which improve conduction along the nervous pathways. The inner most part of your ear is directly connected to your brain by a nerve which transmits sound signals and balance information. When the Schwann cells specifically wrapped around this hearing and balance nerve begin to grow out of control, they form a tumour known as Acoustic Neuroma.

Acoustic neuroma has a benign (noncancerous) nature and is quite rare. This abnormal proliferation enlarges at a very slow rate or not at all, and by itself is not hazardous. However, as it is located in the skull, it has limited space to expand and when it does so rapidly, it may cause damage to the surrounding structures. It can press upon the hearing and balance nerve, facial nerve (which passes nearby from your face on its way to the brain) and the brainstem (contains vital centre for control of breathing and heart function). Thus, if left untreated it can lead to severe neurological impairment and may even be life-threatening.

An alternative name for this disease is Vestibular Schwannoma. Individuals afflicted with the inborn nervous system disorder Neurofibromatosis type 2, tend to develop acoustic neuromas in both ears, where a faulty gene is inherited. The genetic material malfunctions and does not produce the protein responsible for Schwann cell growth control, but why this abnormality occurs has not been identified. Previous exposure of head and neck to radiation is considered a risk factor.​

If you believe you may be suffering from acoustic neuroma, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Gradual hearing loss in 98% of affected individuals, characteristically on one side 

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Loss of balance when moving, standing or walking

  • Dizziness

  • Facial numbness or weakness​​

None of these symptoms should be taken lightly. They can resemble other diseases so it is always best to get them medically examined. You may consult the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital for optimal assessment. An early diagnosis can catch the tumour before it has a chance to cause any serious complications.
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.
Your evaluation will begin with a few questions regarding your symptoms and a physical examination. After the initial assessment your doctor will be able to differentiate tumours from other ear related illnesses.

A hearing test may be performed and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized Tomography (CT) scan of the brain can further assist in making a diagnosis. ​

Management varies in accordance with each individual’s case. It is natural to feel alarmed at the news of having a brain tumour. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Wait and watch method: regular imaging and hearing tests every 6 to 12 months to monitor progress of the tumour if symptoms are not significant

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: stops growth of tumour

  • Surgery: removal of tumour through ear or a window created in the skull ​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.