Dec 2, 2022 - Partners

How a hearing test revealed one Charlotte woman’s brain tumor


This content was produced in partnership with Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates. 

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Photo: Andy Weber/Axios

Sandra Fugate is a Charlotte-area high school teacher who started experiencing pain and hearing loss in December 2021.

A few months later, she went to Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates (CEENTA) to have it checked out and learned that her symptoms were caused by a vestibular schwannoma, also known as an acoustic neuroma.

  • What this means: Sandra had a benign brain tumor that can cause facial numbness, balance issues and hearing loss.

The background: At first, Sandra was told by primary care doctors that her symptoms were caused by allergy-related fluid behind the ear.

  • It wasn’t until her son urged her to look into it more that she took a hearing test and was referred to CEENTA.

Dr. Jonathan Moss at CEENTA was concerned by the severity and one-sidedness of Sanda’s hearing loss, so he ordered another hearing test with CEENTA and an MRI.

  • “I just thought age was catching up to me. When I left my appointment, I wasn’t alarmed and didn’t really expect an MRI to find anything,” said Sandra.

The results: The MRI revealed a brain tumor near Sandra’s right ear, so Dr. Moss referred her to CEENTA neurotologist Dr. Brendan O’Connell and Dr. Scott Wait, a neurosurgeon at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA), so she could have it surgically removed.

  • Based on the size of Sandra’s tumor, Dr. O’Connell estimated it had probably been growing for almost 10 years.

“We asked how dangerous the surgery was on a scale of 1-10, and Dr. Wait said it was all about perspective. To most neurosurgeons, it’s a 9, but he does so many that it’s more like a 5. That made me feel confident in his surgical abilities,” said Sandra.

The strategy: I knew full recovery would take about eight weeks, so I wanted to have the surgery over my summer break. We scheduled it for July 6, 2022.

The surgery went great and Sandra spent less time recovering in the ICU than expected.

  • Even better: The doctors did not have to shave her head, so she was able to get back to looking and feeling like herself even faster.

“The days and weeks to follow were nothing short of a miracle; each day I got better. I was up and walking more and more and I didn’t notice any facial paralysis,” said Sandra.

The takeaway: Hearing tests are an important part of routine medical care that can help identify problems before they get too serious.

  • “They were able to preserve my quality of life, and I can now say I am tumor-free,” said Sandra.

Read more about Sanda’s story.

If you’re experiencing hearing-related symptoms, it’s always a good idea to get checked. Call 704-295-3300 to schedule an appointment with CEENTA.

This content was produced in partnership with Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates. 


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