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Acoustic Neuroma

Definition

An acoustic neuroma is a tumor that grows on the nerve of the ear. This nerve runs from your brainstem to the ear and plays a role in hearing and in maintaining your balance. This is a benign tumor, which means it is not cancer. However, this condition can still cause serious problems if the tumor is large enough to put pressure on your brainstem.

The Acoustic Nerve
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Causes

A tumor is caused by the abnormal growth of cells. This growth is determined by genes of the cells. An acoustic neuroma is caused by a problem with specific genes. It is not clear what causes the problem with the genes. Some environmental factors may play a role.

Risk Factors

Acoustic neuroma is most common in people aged 30-60. Factors that may increase your chance of acoustic neuroma include:

  • History of neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2)—a condition that leads to growth of tumors on nerves
  • Family history of NF2
  • Long term exposure to loud sounds

Symptoms

An acoustic neuroma grows slowly. Symptoms will be minor at first then worsen over time as the tumor grows. The first symptoms of an acoustic neuroma include:

  • Gradual hearing loss in one ear
  • Decrease in sound discrimination, especially when talking on the telephone
  • Ringing in the affected ear—tinnitus

As the neuroma grows larger, symptoms may include:

  • Balance problems
  • Facial numbness and tingling
  • Weakness of the facial muscles on the side of the tumor

If headaches or mental confusion occur, the tumor may be life threatening. Call your doctor right away.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Your ears will be examined. Tests of your nervous system will also be done. There are a number of conditions that can affect your hearing including the very common ear infection. Acoustic neuroma may only be diagnosed after results from tests such as:

Treatment

Treatment depends on your age, general health, the size and location of the tumor, and its rate of growth. Treatment may include:

Observation

Tumors may stay very small and cause few problems. In this case, the tumor may not need treatment. The doctor will monitor it for any changes. This is approach is common among people over age 70.

Microsurgical Removal

If the tumor is causing problems or is growing large it may need to be removed. The type of surgery depends on the size and location of the tumor. Complications of surgery may include permanent hearing loss and/or paralysis of facial muscles on the affected side.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cells and shrink tumors. It may also stop further growth of the tumor. Radiation may be used when tumors are small and surgery is not possible. This method may preserve hearing. The radiation may be given over several treatments or as one large dose.

A procedure called stereotactic radiosurgery may be used. This surgery uses a focused beam of radiation to destroy tumor tissue in and around the brain.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines for preventing acoustic neuroma.

Revision Information

  • Acoustic Neuroma Association

    http://www.anausa.org

  • American Academy of Audiology

    http://www.audiology.org

  • Canadian Academy of Audiology

    http://www.canadianaudiology.ca

  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada

    http://www.cfpc.ca

  • Acoustic neuroma. American Hearing Research Foundation. Available at: http://american-hearing.org/disorders/acoustic-neuroma. Updated October 2012. Accessed August 8, 2014.

  • Acoustic neuroma. Vestibular Disorders Association. Available at: http://vestibular.org/acoustic-neuroma. Accessed August 8, 2014.

  • What is acoustic neuroma? Acoustic Neuroma Association website. Available at: https://www.anausa.org/index.php/overview/what-is-acoustic-neuroma. Accessed August 8, 2014.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Parkridge Health System does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.