An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a noncancerous tumor that develops on the acoustic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting sensory information related to hearing and balance from the inner ear to the brain.
Acoustic neuromas are relatively rare, accounting for approximately 8% of all brain tumors. They usually grow slowly and may not cause symptoms at first. However, as the tumor grows larger, it can compress nearby structures and cause a range of symptoms.
Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma may include:
- Hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Facial numbness or weakness
- Difficulty with speech or swallowing
The exact cause of acoustic neuromas is not well understood, but they are thought to be caused by genetic mutations or changes in the cells of the acoustic nerve.
Diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma typically involves imaging studies such as an MRI or CT scan. Treatment options depend on the size and location of the tumor, as well as the severity of symptoms. Small tumors may be monitored with regular imaging studies, while larger tumors may require surgical removal or radiation therapy.
While acoustic neuromas are generally noncancerous, they can still have significant impacts on a person’s quality of life due to the associated symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to minimize these effects and prevent further complications.