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What is Acoustic Neuroma?

Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main (vestibular) nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain.  Acoustic neuromas most commonly arise from schwann cells, which produce insulation for the vestibular nerve.  Therefore, these tumors are often called or known as vestibular Schwannomas.

According to the Acoustic Neuroma Association, acoustic tumors constitute 6%-10% of all brain tumors and are found in roughly one of every 100,000 people per year in the United States.  This translates to about 2,500-3,000 newly diagnosed acoustic tumors per year.

Acoustic neuromas do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.  The brain is not invaded by the acoustic tumor, but the tumor pushes on the brain as it enlarges.  In most cases, these tumors grow slowly over a period of years, but sometimes the rate of growth is more rapid.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of acoustic neuroma are often subtle and may take many years to develop.  They usually arise from the tumor’s effects on the hearing and balance nerves.  Pressure from the tumor on adjacent nerves controlling facial muscles and sensation (facial and trigeminal nerves), nearby blood vessels, or brain structures may also cause problems.  As the tumor grows, it may be more likely to cause more noticeable or severe signs and symptoms.

Common symptoms of acoustic neuroma may include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing (tinnitus) in the ear
  • Unsteadiness, loss of balance
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Facial numbness and very rarely, weakness or loss of muscle movement

In rare cases, an acoustic neuroma may grow large enough to compress the brainstem and become life-threatening.

Because these symptoms may overlap with those of other conditions, it is important to get the correct diagnosis to find the right treatment.  Make an appointment with your primary care physician if you are experiencing persistent signs and symptoms that concern you.

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