A Minnesota man who started to have hearing problems was shocked to learn that it was not caused by ear damage, but by a brain tumor.
Joe Ruhlin’s hearing in his left ear had slowly deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t use the phone on that side and struggled to hear anything on that side of his body.
After being urged by his daughter to get care—believing it was an ear problem that could be remedied with a hearing aid—Ruhlin discovered he was actually suffering from a brain tumor.
He had an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor, which he has since removed and which is not on the road to recovery and return to a normal life.
Joe Ruhlin (left) was shocked to discover that his hearing problem was caused by a brain tumor. Rachel Ruhlin (right) urged her father to have a hearing test, expecting that he would only need a hearing aid
Rachel Ruhlin, Joe’s daughter, is an Auburn University student studying hearing science.
After learning about the ear while attending college in Alabama, she advised her hard of hearing father to seek help for his problems.
“As I started taking these classes, it got more into perspective,” Rachel said in a… Maroon Release†
‘My professor would talk about how many people have hearing loss, and if you don’t get hearing aids, your hearing will only get worse and worse. Finally I texted my father and I said, ‘We have to go.’ I didn’t really give him an option.’
Joe entered the appointment expecting to get a hearing aid, figuring that his hearing problems were related to age and damage he had suffered from going to concerts in his youth.
Ruhlin also wanted his daughter to experience a hearing test up close and personal, something that could become a regular part of her future career.
“She strongly encouraged me to make an appointment while she was at home,” Joe said.
“And I think she knew I would go with her, also because it would be interesting for her to see up close what an audiological test looks like, what a hearing test would look like and participate in it and ask questions. ‘
Ruhlin had surgery successfully in February and is now recovering at home
He says he is grateful for his daughter, and for her lessons in Auburn, because they prompted him to have his hearing checked
The results of the first hearing test came as no surprise, which found that he had severe hearing loss in his left ear.
Ruhlin was then referred to a second doctor, who ordered an MRI. The results of the MRI were shocking, showing that he was suffering from the brain tumor.
Acoustic neuroma is a rare condition that affects people 40 years and older. The most common symptoms are hearing loss, ear fullness and tinnitus.
Some patients also have balance problems, numbness on the side of the face with 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 and removes them and prevents them from spreading, if left unchecked, they can eventually damage the brain stem and cause death.
“While it’s benign, there’s a risk that something will grow inside your head. And where this tumor originates, there’s a lot of important things, especially the brain stem, right next to it. So as these tumors slowly get bigger, they can start pushing on some critical structures,” explains Dr. Michael Link, a surgeon at Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic who treated Ruhlin.
‘The other problem is that it is precisely with the auditory and balance nerves that the facial nerves run, which innervate all the muscles of facial expression. As the tumor grows, the chances of the facial nerve getting injured or not working properly after surgery increase.”
After Ruhlin’s treatment, doctors are pushing for more Americans with hearing problems to be monitored 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 his brain.
He now has months of recovery ahead of him, but is grateful that his daughter has urged him to make sure his hearing problems are examined.
“It means a lot that she helped me through this,” he said.
“I’m very grateful that she pushed me to see the doctor. It did take some encouragement, and she is very good at encouraging me to do things. Daughters can be like that.
“So I’m very grateful that she was in that audiology class at the time. She talked to her audiology professors, and they supported what we heard, so it was very reassuring to have her support.”
Link is urging more people with hearing impairments to get them checked out, not just due to aging or some other more benign factor.
The great, great majority of the time, when people have unilateral hearing loss or unilateral tinnitus, it is not a tumor. But again, it’s always worth getting it checked out,” the surgeon said.
“It fascinates me that so many people have hearing loss and refuse to get it checked. It’s a big problem 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 don’t hear well, get it checked out.”