Brain tumors can take many forms. Even those that aren’t cancerous can put pressure on delicate areas of the brain, causing symptoms. The symptoms you experience will depend on the type of tumor you have and where it’s located in the brain.
There are just a few millimeters of space between the brain and the skull. The adult brain — weighing about 3 pounds — along with the meninges and cerebrospinal fluid, uses just about every inch of space in the cranial cavity. Any growths, extra fluid, or any kind of swelling can cause serious problems.
The tissues of the brain are delicate and very sensitive to pressure. When tumors develop, parts of the brain can swell or become displaced, putting pressure on the other areas. This is called cerebral edema, and it can lead to increases in your intracranial pressure.
Symptoms of cerebral edema may include:
Any tumor, as well as a number of other injuries and infections, can cause increases in intracranial pressure and cerebral edema. In addition to symptoms caused by overall swelling, damage can also be caused to different parts of the brain from direct pressure or by the tumor.
One example of this is acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma). This is a benign (noncancerous) tumor that develops on the eighth cranial nerve. Although this tumor is slow-growing and doesn’t spread to other parts of the brain or cause cancer, the nerve it develops on helps to control hearing and balance.
Tinnitus and dizziness aren’t the defining symptoms of this kind of tumor, but they’re commonly reported. In one study, 80 percent of people with acoustic neuromas reported hearing loss in one ear. The second most common symptom was tinnitus in one ear (6.3 percent), followed by dizziness, vertigo, and headaches.
Other types of growths, like skull base tumors, can also affect the parts of the brain that control balance and hearing.
Ringing ears and dizziness aren’t the only things that could signal a brain tumor. The brain is the command center for the entire body, so as different parts of the brain are affected, symptoms can appear in the different body systems they control.
Some common symptoms of brain tumors include:
- vision changes
- hearing loss
- changes to your sense of smell
- personality changes
- sleep problems
- memory problems
- balance problems
- weakness, especially on one side of the body
There are a lot of things that can cause dizziness, including migraines and dehydration, so it’s hard to make a diagnosis from these symptoms alone. A healthcare professional will ask you questions about what happens before and during your dizziness, as well as other questions about your health.
Tinnitus is a more specific symptom that corresponds to certain areas of the brain or body. Common causes of tinnitus include:
If you’ve been experiencing ringing in your ears or dizziness, make an appointment with a healthcare professional. You should plan to bring information about your health history and a list of any medications you’re taking.
Your doctor will review your current health concerns and your overall health, and do a neurological assessment. You may have hearing tests done to diagnose tinnitus. To rule out any other problems, like structural ear problems or a brain tumor, you may be asked to schedule additional imaging tests like a CT or MRI.
Dizziness is a symptom that can occur with a lot of conditions, but when it occurs with tinnitus, a diagnosis may be easier to pinpoint. Both symptoms can occur with brain tumors, and tinnitus is more common in people with noncancerous brain tumors, while dizziness is a very common symptom of many different health problems.
If you experience ringing in the ears along with problems like balance issues, headache, nausea, or dizziness, make an appointment with your doctor. While benign brain tumors like those that cause dizziness and tinnitus aren’t usually cancerous, they can still cause problems due to the amount of pressure they can create in your skull.