Your hearing can give you the best clues that something around you isn’t right. But did you know that your lack of hearing can also give you signs?
This was the case for one of our patients, Sandra. Dealing with pain, ringing, and hearing loss in her right ear, the high school teacher was initially diagnosed with fluid behind her ear due to allergies in December 2021. After a few more months and no change in her hearing loss, a conversation with her son prompted a hearing test with her primary care physician, who referred her to CEENTA.
CEENTA’s audiologists examined her hearing, with otolaryngologist Jonathan Moss, MD, from our Matthews office taking a closer look at the results. Upon meeting Dr. Moss, Sandra said, “He was very laid back, personable, and almost nonchalant about what I was telling him.”
“I was concerned due to the severity of her hearing loss and it only occurring in one ear, so I ordered an MRI,” remarked Dr. Moss. In April, Sandra received her MRI. “Unfortunately, it demonstrated a brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) as the cause of her ear symptoms,” said Dr. Moss.
An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor that forms between the inner ear and brain stem on the vestibulocochlear nerve (also known as nerve 8), which is responsible for balance and hearing. In Sandra’s case, it would require surgery to remove, and she was referred to CEENTA neurotologist Brendan O’Connell, MD, from our SouthPark office.
“Prior to meeting Dr. O'Connell, I tried to find information about him,” Sandra remarked. “I was determined to keep an open mind. I had decided if I didn't like Dr. O'Connell or what he had to say, I would contact Duke. After meeting him, I knew there was no need to contact Duke. He was personable, he was patient. He answered all mine and my mother's questions and explained what was going on with me in detail.”
After Sandra discussed previous balance issues with Dr. O’Connell, the physician estimated that her tumor had been growing for nearly ten years. He recommended a collaborative surgery between himself and members of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA), including Dr. Scott Wait.
When asked about meeting Dr. Wait, Sandra remembers, “He too answered questions that I had. He explained everything to me again, this time with a little more technical language about nerves 5-12. He told me how he talks to himself and Dr. O'Connell throughout surgery to make sure he is doing right by the patient.” Her surgery was scheduled for July 6th in order for her to recover and return to teaching by August. Sandra prepared for her surgery by compiling as much information as she could, including various support groups on Facebook.
Dr. Wait elaborated on Sandra’s specific surgery by saying, “She underwent a right retrosigmoid craniotomy for resection of an acoustic neuroma. Her final pathology was consistent with schwannoma as a grade I benign tumor.” On specific considerations for the procedure, Dr. O’Connell said, “The most important part about the surgery, aside from removing the tumor was making sure that no damage would be done to the facial nerve, which is responsible for facial movement.”
The operation was a complete success. Sandra returned to Dr. Wait for her six-week follow up and, according to the surgeon, “We were pleased with her outcome as she reported perfect facial functioning, and presented with a beautifully healed incision.”
Sandra was appreciative of all of the work conducted by CEENTA and CNSA to not only diagnose but treat her acoustic neuroma. “I would have never dreamed that I would have had a brain tumor. The thought of it, hearing and saying the words, is unimaginable and frightful. I am thankful I didn't have to travel far to find doctors who were able to perform such a technical, difficult, and time-consuming surgery so effectively.”
Regarding the collaborative effort between the two practices, Dr. O’Connell said, “Dr. Moss deserves a lot of credit for diagnosing the patient based on their hearing loss, and the neurosurgeons at CNSA were outstanding.”
“Dr. Brendan O’Connell and the entire team at CEENTA are a pleasure to collaborate with as we search for lasting solutions for our shared patients. They are good people, with skilled expertise, making it easy for us to provide patients with a multidisciplinary, clinical approach between our organizations,” comments Dr. Wait.
Sandra summed up her final thoughts by saying, “They were able to preserve my quality of life, and I can now say I am tumor free.”
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. If you need an appointment with an ENT doctor in one of our North or South Carolina locations, you can schedule appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
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