A slow-growing, vascular tumor located at the skull base, a glomus jugulare, or glomus tumor, is the most common tumor of the temporal bone. Patients often hear their own heartbeat in the affected ear. Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, hearing loss, slurred speech, and facial weakness. In rare cases, a patient will experience pain or bleeding from the ear.
This tumor can be diagnosed through a simple ear exam using an otoscope, basically a handheld microscope, or by listening to the ear with a stethoscope, which can reveal the sound of the patient’s heart.
Glomus tympanicum is another common tumor affecting the ear and can have an identical appearance to the glomus jugulare. The difference is that glomus jugulare tumors grow on the jugular bulb while the glomus tympanicum grows in the middle ear space. Distinguishing these tumors can typically be done through a detailed ear microscope exam or with an MRI or CT scan.
For more detailed, technical information about Glomus Jugulare, please read our glomus jugulare patient information sheet.
UT Southwestern Medical Center surgeons are experts at diagnosing and treating glomus tumors.
Treatment options include:
- – includes serial imaging studies and is often recommended for patients of advanced age, multiple health issues, or according to patient preference
- Partial or total surgical removal
- – typically recommended in younger patients. Partial removal can be used when the lower cranial nerves are intact while total removal is usually attempted when the nerves are nonfunctional.
- External beam radiation
- – treatment is conducted five days a week for several weeks
- Stereotactic radiation therapy
- – treatment may be completed in one day or over a three-day period
- – depending on specifics, may include surgery and conventional or stereotactic radiation therapy
Hoarseness, whether from the tumor or treatment, can be improved through speech therapy, vocal cord injection therapy, or surgical repositioning of the vocal cord. Shoulder pain from spinal accessory nerve problems often responds well to physical therapy.
Hearing loss due to the tumor can sometimes be improved with surgical removal. Several types of hearing aids may also help if hearing loss remains after treatment.
Speech therapy can improve swallowing problems.