Acoustic neuroma is a rare noncancerous tumor. It grows slowly from an overproduction of Schwann cells and is also called a vestibular schwannoma. The tumor then presses on the hearing and balance nerves in the inner ear. Schwann cells normally wrap around and support nerve fibers. A large tumor can press on the facial nerve or brain structures.
There are 2 types of acoustic neuromas:
Acoustic neuroma can be caused by:
People who have a disease called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) are at higher risk. NF2 can run in families.
These are the most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma:
The symptoms of acoustic neuroma may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Acoustic neuromas look like other middle and inner ear problems. It may be hard to diagnose. An ear exam and a hearing test are usually done first. Computerized tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) help to find and measure the tumor.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Treatment may include watching and waiting, surgery, or radiation. Surgery for larger tumors can damage hearing, balance, and facial nerves. Another treatment choice is radiosurgery, often called the "gamma knife." This uses focused radiation to reduce the size or blunt the growth of the tumor.
If the tumor gets big enough, it can press against the brain stem. This can affect neurological function or even become life-threatening.