It started as a simple diagnosis of vertigo, the loss of balance or feeling of spinning caused by a number of diseases of the inner ear, but as Oxford’s Christina Hayes continued to have balance problems and began to lose her hearing in her left ear, a series of MRIs revealed something more complicated.
In April 2015, Hayes was diagnosed with a 1.6 centimeter acoustic neuroma, a rare benign brain tumor that can cause lasting effects.
The week of May 8 has been designated as ANAwareness Week by the Acoustic Neuroma Association (ANA). This nationwide campaign aims to raise awareness of this little-discussed disorder and takes place during Brain Tumor Awareness Month.
Hayes is sharing her story to do her part for ANAwareness Week, which includes a focus on signs and symptoms.
Hayes exhibited some of the most common symptoms last spring. According to the ANA, early signs of Acoustic Neuroma include a reduction in hearing in the tumor ear, ringing in the ear, a feeling of fullness in the affected ear, balance issues and headaches.
They add that “without an MRI with contrast, these early symptoms are sometimes mistaken for normal changes of aging or attributed to noise exposure earlier in life and therefore the diagnosis is often delayed.”
After her diagnosis, Hayes consulted with brain surgeons and other experts. On July 1, she underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor at NYU Medical Center. The surgery was a success, but the lasting damage has been extensive. She has completely lost her hearing in her left ear, has round the clock tinnitus, and suffers from headaches. One of her “balance nerves” also had to be severed to complete the tumor removal.
Almost a year later, Hayes credits her “amazing” network of family, friends, and contacts at the ANA for helping her get through her recovery. She is now back at work and hits the gym regularly.
The medical advisory board of the ANA reports that about 3.5 people per 100,000 are diagnosed annually in the United States with Acoustic Neuroma. There is currently no known cause, but Hayes is a member of research by “The Yale University Acoustic Neuroma Study” to determine if there are genetic risk factors.
For more information about acoustic neuromas and ANAwareness Week, visit www.ANAUSA.org. ANA is a non-profit founded in 1981.