One sided hearing loss and Brain Tumour Research

October 26, 2020

Posted by: Tom Lax


This week is International Brain Tumour Awareness Week.

To mark that occasion Bolt Burdon Kemp are proud to sponsor a day of research at the University of Plymouth by placing a tile in Brain Tumour Research the wall of hope today.

Brain Tumours

One of the benefits of working in a specialised department that only runs claims for brain-injured adults is that you are more likely to notice patterns emerging across cases.

There isn’t that much that is simple about cancer or tumours.  Not the biology.  Not the impact on people’s lives.  But, one simple pattern I have noticed in several of my cases is that one type of brain tumour causes deafness – vestibular schwannoma (or acoustic neuroma).

Hearing loss in one ear (unilateral hearing loss) with no obvious cause (like a build of wax) is a well-known symptom of this type of tumour.  NICE guidance is clear that patients who present with these symptoms should be investigated with an MRI scan (if the hearing loss is conductive).  If performed, an MRI scan is very likely to uncover a tumour if there is one to be uncovered.

Another red flag symptom of a tumour is “pulsatile tinnitus” – hearing blood pumping in your ear or whooshing noises.

Tumours such as vestibular schwannomas are “low grade”.  Many people know them as “benign” – but saying that they are benign is a little misleading as they can cause significant problems, as several of my clients would testify.

If left to grow these tumours can cause lasting and life-threatening damage.  Nerve damage can cause permanent arm or leg weakness or facial paralysis amongst other things.  One of my clients suffered a serious stroke following surgery to remove theirs.

The earlier the diagnosis the better the treatment options. Delayed diagnosis can lead to suffering and injury.

My experience

I have had several clients who have suffered injury as a direct result of their unilateral hearing or pulsatile tinnitus not being appropriately investigated.

Proving negligent treatment caused an injury is always a double-edged sword.  It is rewarding to obtain compensation for people who have suffered as a result of negligent treatment, but proving that something happened that shouldn’t have and that it caused a significant injury can be a bitter pill for my clients and their families to swallow – the negligence shouldn’t have happened and the injury should have been prevented.

When you come up against the same mistake time and again the suffering caused seems even more needless.

The good news is that treatment options for this type of tumour are getting better and better.

Brain Tumour Research

A few months ago I had a conversation with Hugh Adams from the charity, Brain Tumour Research.  He directed me to research being funded by them at Europe’s leading low-grade tumour research institution at the University of Plymouth.  By learning better how these tumours develop and researching how best to treat and prevent them, this project is working towards a brighter future for brain tumour patients.

Plymouth has taken samples from tumour patients to model a vestibular schwannoma.  They have then used that model in laboratory experiments designed to work out what causes the tumour to form and grow.  This in turn is helping them develop effective treatments.

This method has shown that a certain type of protein causes cell growth within schwannomas and that this can be stopped by applying anti-retroviral drugs (developed to treat HIV).

Whilst existing non-invasive treatments, such as radiotherapy, are getting more and more effective, there are situations where surgery is required and whenever surgery is required, treatment risks increase.

A drug treatment for a brain tumour would save people from life changing disability and death.

I am proud that I get to help people who have suffered as a result of negligent treatment and I get to form relationships and fundraise for charities, such as Brain Tumour Research, who drive research into treatments that could end up improving the lives of millions of people.

Professor Oliver Hanemann, Research Lead & Director of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence has said:–

“The funding support from Brain Tumour Research has enabled our lab to recruit and sustain scientific talent who have the potential to move the dial forward as we strive to fund breakthroughs in brain tumour research.

The support they have received from Bolt Burdon Kemp is greatly appreciated by all of us here in Plymouth working to improve brain tumour options and outcomes. Thank you from me and the team”

Tom Lax is an associate solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Tom free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4840 or at tomlax@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.

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Posted by: Tom Lax

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