December 19, 2021

One-Sided Hearing Loss Caused by Brain Tumor (Animations!)

Average hearing loss by gender and age.

Normally, nerve hearing loss occurs at a steady symmetric rate as one gets older. One ear should NOT suffer hearing loss at a faster rate compared to the opposite side. The image shown to the side displays average hearing loss based on gender and age. 

As such, if one ear is hearing significantly worse (known as asymmetric sensorineural hearing loss), there is cause for concern that there may be something unusual going on (assuming no earwax or ear fluid presence that can commonly cause conductive hearing loss in just one side).

Perhaps such asymmetric nerve hearing loss can be explained by one-sided repeated loud noise exposure over time as happens with hunters and musicians. 

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However, in about 5-10% of patients suffering from one-sided hearing loss, it can be due to a type of brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma. This tumor is NOT cancer, but given its location, it compresses and causes dysfunction of the hearing nerve as it slowly gets bigger (average growth rate is ~1mm per year). An MRI scan is typically obtained to evaluate for the presence of this tumor in patients found to have asymmetric nerve hearing loss. This scan is part of the "medical clearance" required to obtain hearing aids should one-sided hearing loss be found.

Treatment (if pursued), is typically either surgical or radiation like cyber-knife.

Videos below go into greater explanation on the surgical approaches (retrosigmoid, middle fossa, or translabyrinthine) usually performed jointly with a neuro-otologic ENT specialist as well as a neurosurgeon.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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