What is Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma is a type of tumor in the ear that affects brain and hormone production. It can also be referred to as a vestibular schwannomaneurofibromatosis, or an acoustic tumor. Acoustic neuromas are benign tumors that arise from Schwann cells. They are generally slow-growing and do not spread to other parts of the body; however, because they press on vital structures in the brain, they may cause hearing loss or balance problems and require treatment.

Acoustic Neuroma Symptoms

Acoustic Neuromas are almost always located on the internal auditory canal, where they do not cause any symptoms. However, when the tumor grows in the cerebellopontine angle (CPA), they can cause facial pain and headaches.

Symptoms depend upon the site of the neurofibroma and include:

  • Neuropathy of cranial nerve VII
  • Hearing Loss
  • Issues with Balance, coordination or gait
  • Tinnitus
  • Deafness
  • Loss of facial sensation or movement
  • Headaches

Patient Diagnosis

If acoustic neuroma is diagnosed preoperatively, neurosurgical intervention is recommended to prevent recurrence. Tumors which have invaded local cranial nerves or brain parenchyma carry a high risk of malformation.

Acoustic Neuroma is diagnosed by:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)MRI is the preferred imaging modality to study neuro-endocrine tumors because of its outstanding resolution of soft tissues. 
  • CT scans. A CT scan of the head or neck may also be used to diagnose neuro-endocrine tumor of sinus tympani.

Intervention and Treatment

Acoustic neuromas are generally slow-growing and immediate intervention is not always necessary. A conservative approach is taken for patients with very small, asymptomatic tumors, or if the patient is elderly or has serious, pre-existing medical conditions.

For patients who do require treatment to alleviate symptoms, radiation or neurosurgery may be recommended. There are two types of surgery used to treat acoustic neuroma, open surgery and radiosurgery. Open surgery requires cutting of the skin and tissues to gain full visibility of the tumor. Radiosurgery is a non-invasive treatment that uses precisely focused, narrow beams of radiation to both treat the acoustic neuroma and to reduce the dose of radiation delivered to the surrounding tissues including the hearing, balance and facial nerves.