Vestibular schwannoma is a relatively rare condition that can cause hearing loss. This condition, which causes benign growths, is associated with hearing loss in some patients. While the source of the hearing loss has long been thought to be related to compression alone, a new study is suggesting that secretions from the tumors themselves may be to blame. This finding, in turn, may someday lead to better treatments to preserve hearing.
Vestibular schwannoma is a tumor-causing condition that is very uncommon. An estimated 10 people per 1 million are diagnosed with the condition in the United States each year. People over the age of 40 are most likely to be diagnosed. This condition is considered sporadic in most cases, meaning it isn’t passed along through genes. The tumors associated with the condition tend to be very slow growing and may not even grow at all once they appear. Since tumor growth is not predictable, however, careful monitoring may be required. Depending on the nature of the tumor, treatment may include such options as monitoring, surgery or radiation.
While it has long been thought that vestibular schwannoma caused hearing loss due to pressure the tumors created on the structures found within the ear, the new findings show that toxic secretions from the tumors themselves may be to blame. Researchers say this tracks with how hearing loss tends to present in patients with the condition. Some patients with small tumors, for example, may suffer severe hearing loss while those with large tumors may not always suffer hearing loss. That said, researchers do acknowledge, that some large tumors may cause serious compression issues that could produce facial nerve paralysis and brain stem progression in some instances.
The study that points to possible toxic secretions involved 13 patients. Each had hearing loss to one degree or another. Secretions from tumors were collected from each of the patients and applied to mouse cochlea with the damage studied. The results were eye opening about the role the secretions may play.
While the study may lead to future breakthroughs in the treatment of vestibular schwannoma, these could remain much further down the road. Larger-scale studies are also needed to confirm the findings.
People who suffer unexplained hearing loss, a loss of balance or issues with tinnitus should be checked out by a medical professional. These symptoms are among the most common associated with vestibular schwannoma. Should this condition be diagnosed, the best form of treatment will depend on the severity of the tumors and concerns about potential side effects.