Acoustic neuroma 

Introduction 

Hearing loss: Paul's story

Paul was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss at the age of 33. Despite this, he continues to be successful in his job and was awarded Council Worker of the Year in 2007.

Media last reviewed: 14/02/2013

Next review due: 14/02/2015

Hearing problems

How to protect your hearing, with tips on spotting when you're going deaf, getting tested and hearing aids

An acoustic neuroma is a benign non-cancerous growth, or tumour, in the brain. It is also known as a vestibular Schwannoma.

An acoustic neuroma grows on the acoustic nerve (vestibulocochlear nerve), which helps control hearing and balance. The acoustic nerve runs alongside the facial nerve, which carries information from the brain to face muscles.

A small acoustic neuroma generally causes problems with:

  • hearing – causing hearing loss or tinnitus (a perception of noise inside the ear)
  • balance – causing vertigo, the sensation that you are spinning

A large acoustic neuroma can cause multiple symptoms, including:

  • headaches with blurred vision
  • numbness or pain on one side of the face
  • problems with limb coordination on one side of the body
  • less often, muscle weakness on one side of the face 
  • in rare cases, changes to the voice or difficulty swallowing

The symptoms of an acoustic neuroma can vary in severity, and tend to develop gradually. This means the condition can be difficult to diagnose.

If your GP suspects you have an acoustic neuroma, you will be referred to hospital for tests that may include:

Read more information about how an acoustic neuroma is diagnosed.

How common is an acoustic neuroma?

All types of brain tumour are relatively rare. Every year, approximately 20 people out of every million in the population are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.

Acoustic neuromas tend to be more common in women than men, although the reasons for this are not yet understood. People aged between 40 and 60 years are most often affected. The condition is rare in children.

The exact causes of acoustic neuroma are not currently known. However, about five out of 100 cases are caused by a rare, inherited condition called neurofibromatosis type 2.

Treating an acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma tends to grow slowly, and will not spread from the original site of the tumour. Sometimes, an acoustic neuroma is so small and grows so slowly it does not cause any symptoms or problems. In this case, the acoustic neuroma may just be monitored to avoid risks associated with surgery.

In rare cases, the tumour can grow large enough to press on the brain. However, most acoustic neuromas can be treated before they get to this stage, using:

  • surgery to remove the tumour
  • radiotherapy to destroy the tumour

Read more information about treating an acoustic neuroma.

An acoustic neuroma is not usually a life-threatening condition, but symptoms can disrupt day-to-day life. For example, loss of hearing may affect a person’s ability to communicate with others.

Read more information about complications of an acoustic neuroma




Page last reviewed: 15/06/2012

Next review due: 15/06/2014

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Mikie_Mike said on 20 July 2014

found out I have this tumour in 2009 when started to have hearing loss. it was too big for radiotherapy. no further symptoms until early 2014, when loss of balance and double vision made it a living hell. had a shunt installed and and the major operation solved the balance problem, but double vision is still there after 3 month at the time of writing. major worry before the operation was damaging of the facial nerve and subsequent face drop they gave me 50/50 chances. at the end no nerve was damaged, but face became weak and one side still doesn't work. may take many month to recover, may not recover at all...

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Vilary said on 02 September 2013

after Radiotherapy for the acoustic neuroma the loss of balance increased and loss of memory. a ct scan and lumber puncture followed and a shunt was fitted. great improvement and life has begun again
only trouble is I never had a discharge paper telling me what and how to continue for the next few months e.g. do I drive, fly, help please hospital is far away out of our area

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