The ear nerve is known by several names including the vestibulocochlear nerve, the auditory nerve, the acoustic nerve, and the eighth cranial nerve. This nerve has two components. The cochlear nerve is responsible for hearing. The vestibular nerve communicates information about body position and movement, assisting the brain in maintaining balance. Toxins, medications, injuries, tumors, infections or other conditions that damage the vestibulocochlear nerve may involve one or both functional parts of the nerve. Similarly, symptoms of ear nerve damage can reflect abnormalities in the hearing or balance functions of the nerve.
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Tinnitus is the symptom of hearing sounds in your ears that are not coming from the environment. People with tinnitus describe hearing different kinds of phantom sounds such as clicking, ringing, whistling, roaring, buzzing and hissing. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states approximately 25 million Americans have experienced the phantom noises of tinnitus. Damage to the ear nerve is one of many causes of tinnitus. Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss, according to NIDCD.
Damage to the acoustic portion of the ear nerve can cause partial or complete hearing loss. “The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals” notes the possible causes of nerve-related hearing loss include benign and cancerous tumors and multiple sclerosis. Acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a noncancerous tumor of the vestibulocochlear nerve. This type of tumor causes seven percent of all brain tumors, according to “The Merck Manual.” Symptoms of acoustic neuroma commonly include hearing loss in one ear, tinnitus, vertigo, headache, ear and facial pain, fullness in the ear, and possibly facial weakness and numbness. Hearing loss is usually gradual, but may come on suddenly. Surgery or a targeted form of radiation therapy is commonly used to treat acoustic neuroma, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Vertigo, Nausea and Vomiting
Vertigo is a phantom sense of motion wherein you feel as if you or the world around you is moving--although neither is actually occurring. Vertigo is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. An abnormality affecting the ear nerve is just one of many possible causes of vertigo. Tumors that exert pressure on the vestibular portion of the vestibulocochlear nerve can precipitate vertigo. A more common cause is vestibular neuritis, an inflammation of the vestibular nerve. According to NIDCD, acoustic neuritis may be caused by a viral infection that temporarily damages the vestibular nerve. The fact that there is no hearing loss or tinnitus helps make the diagnosis of acoustic neuritis. “The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals” advises acoustic neuritis typically resolves in seven to 10 days.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: The Noise in Your Ears: Facts About Tinnitus
- Mayo Clinic: Tinnitus, Symptoms
- Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals: Hearing Loss, Etiology
- American Family Physician: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Loss
- Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals: Acoustic Neuroma
- Merck Manual, Home Edition: Acoustic Nerve Tumors
- Medline Plus: Hearing Loss Interactive Tutorial