Acoustic neuromas (vestibular schwannomas) are benign (noncancerous) tumors that can affect the nerves that help you hear and maintain your balance. The tumors can grow large enough to be life-threatening by pressing on the part of your brain that manages the flow of spinal fluid. Treatment includes stereotactic radiosurgery and microsurgery.
An acoustic neuroma, also called a vestibular schwannoma, is a benign (noncancerous) ear tumor that affects your hearing and sense of balance.
The tumor develops on your 8th cranial nerve (vestibulocochlear), which is the nerve that sends signals from your inner ear to your brain so you can hear and maintain your balance.
Acoustic neuromas don’t spread like cancerous tumors. As they grow, they can affect hearing, cause ringing in your ear (tinnitus), affect balance, and cause facial weakness or facial numbness. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy and, in rare cases, chemotherapy to treat the tumor.
No, they aren’t common. Each year, about 1 in 100,000 people develop an acoustic neuroma. People ages 65 to 74 are more likely to have an acoustic neuroma than younger adults and children.
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The most common early symptom is hearing loss in one ear. Other symptoms may include:
Acoustic neuromas grow very slowly. As they grow, they may cause the following symptoms:
These tumors develop when Schwann cells multiply. These cells support and protect the balance and hearing nerves in your peripheral nervous system. Researchers don’t know why this happens. They do know people with neurofibromatosis type 2 may develop bilateral acoustic neuromas. Bilateral acoustic neuromas are tumors that develop on the auditory nerves on both the right and left sides of your brain.
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. They may do the following:
Treatments vary depending on factors like:
Treatment options include:
Complications of microsurgery
Your care team will discuss possible post-surgical complications and how to treat and manage them. Issues that may arise after surgery include:
That depends on your situation, including the type of surgery and potential complications. Your neurosurgeon will explain treatment options and complications so you know what to expect, including:
If you have an acoustic neuroma, your healthcare provider may decide to monitor your situation before doing treatment. You may feel anxious or worry that any change in your hearing or balance means the tumor is growing. In that case, ask your provider about specific changes that indicate the tumor is affecting your nerves.
If the condition causes symptoms, your provider may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. In some cases, surgery affects nerves that control your ability to maintain balance. In that case, your provider will recommend that you have vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
If you have an acoustic neuroma, consider asking your healthcare provider:
Acoustic neuromas are slow-growing, benign (noncancerous) tumors that can affect your hearing and balance. Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. If so, you’ll probably have lots of questions about what to expect. For example, you may want to know if surgery will affect your hearing or cause other side effects and complications. Your healthcare team will understand your concerns. They’ll take time to explain treatment options and potential complications.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/14/2023.
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