A Minnesota man who had started suffering from hearing problems was shocked to learn that it was not caused by damage to the ear, but rather by a brain tumor.
Joe Ruhlin’s hearing in his left ear had slowly declined to the point that he could no longer use the phone on that side and had difficulty hearing anything on that side of his body.
After being urged by his daughter for treatment – thinking it was an ear problem that could be fixed with a hearing aid – Ruhlin was told he actually had a brain tumor. .
He had an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor, which he has since had removed and is not on the road to recovery and a return to a normal life.
Joe Ruhlin (left) was shocked to learn that his hearing problem was caused by a brain tumour. Rachel Ruhlin (right) urged her father to have a hearing test, expecting he just needed a hearing aid
Rachel Ruhlin, Joe’s daughter, is a student at Auburn University studying auditory science.
After discovering the ear while studying at school in Alabama, she recommended that her hearing-impaired father seek help for his problems.
“Once I started taking these classes, it put them into more perspective,” Rachel said in a statement from Auburn.
“My teacher was talking about how many people have hearing loss, and if you don’t get hearing aids, your hearing will only get worse.” Finally, I texted my dad and said, “We have to go. I didn’t really give him a choice.
Joe showed up to the appointment expecting to be fitted with a hearing aid, believing that his hearing problems were related to age and the damage he had suffered from going to concerts in his youth.
Ruhlin also wanted her daughter to have a hearing test up close and in person, which could become an integral part of her future career.
“She strongly encouraged me to make an appointment while she was home,” he told Joe.
“And I think she knew I was going with her, partly because it was going to be interesting for her to see up close what an audiology test looks like, what a hearing test would look like and participate and ask questions.
Ruhlin successfully underwent surgery in February and is now recovering at home
He says he’s grateful for his daughter and her apprenticeship at Auburn, for inspiring him to go get his hearing checked.
The results of the initial hearing test were no surprise, determining that he suffered from severe hearing loss in his left ear.
Ruhlin was then referred to a second doctor, who ordered an MRI. The MRI results were shocking, showing he had a brain tumor.
Acoustic neuroma is a rare condition that occurs in people aged 40 and over. The most common symptoms are hearing loss, ear fullness, and tinnitus.
Some people also suffer from balance problems, numbness on the side of the face with a tumor and more.
These symptoms often occur because the growth of the tumor affects the nerves around it.
Although they are not often fatal and their treatment is very effective in eliminating them and preventing them from spreading, if left unchecked they can eventually damage the brainstem and lead to death.
“Even though it’s benign, having something growing in your head is a bit risky. And where that tumor appears, there’s a lot of important stuff, especially the brainstem, right next to it. So as these tumors grow slowly, they can start pushing on certain critical structures,” explained Dr. Michael Link, a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who treated Ruhlin.
“The other problem is that, just along with the hearing and balance nerve, runs the facial nerve, which innervates all the muscles of facial expression.” As the tumor grows, the risk of the facial nerve being injured or not working well after surgery increases.
After treating Ruhlin, doctors are pushing for more Americans with hearing problems to be checked just in case, so they can hopefully catch more tumors before they become problems.
On February 16, Ruhlin underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor from her brain.
He now has months of recovery ahead of him, but is grateful his daughter pushed him to make sure he got his hearing issues checked.
“It means a lot that she helped me through this,” he said.
“I am very grateful that she pushed me to go see the doctor. It took encouragement, and she is very good at encouraging me to do things. Girls can be like that.
“So I’m very grateful that she was in that audiology class at the time. She was talking to her audiology professors, and they were confirming what we were hearing, so it was very comforting to have her support.
Link urges more people with hearing problems to make sure they get checked out, and not just blame it on aging or some other more benign factor.
The vast, vast majority of the time when people have one-sided hearing loss or a one-sided ringing in the ear, it’s not a tumor. But again, it’s always worth getting it checked out,” the surgeon said.
“It’s fascinating to me that so many people have hearing loss and refuse to get checked out. It’s a big issue for quality of life if you miss a lot of what’s going on around you.
“So I think for all of our family members, we need to be vigilant and say if you can’t hear well, you need to get it checked out.”