Vestibular schwannoma, commonly known as acoustic neuroma, is a benign tumor that grows on cranial nerves that run from your inner ear to your brain. These nerves, called the cochlear and vestibular nerves, control your sense of hearing and balance. An acoustic neuroma typically grows slowly and usually only on one side.
Treatments for this Condition
How do I know if I have an acoustic neuroma?
A person with acoustic neuroma usually experiences symptoms only one side. Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma include hearing loss, buzzing or ringing in one ear, and sometimes dizziness. These symptoms generally come on slowly, sometimes over years. If the tumor grows large enough to press on adjacent nerves, you may also experience facial numbness.
Are acoustic neuromas dangerous?
Acoustic neuromas are benign tumors, meaning they are not cancerous. Because acoustic neuromas usually grow slowly or not at all, they often can be left untreated without worry. However, you will need to be monitored to ensure your acoustic neuroma tumor is not growing.
If acoustic neuromas grow, they can cause permanent hearing loss. In rare cases, an acoustic neuroma can become life threatening if the tumor grows so large that it presses again the brain stem and causes fluid to build up inside your head.
When should I see a doctor if I'm experiencing symptoms of an acoustic neuroma?
If you are experiencing ringing in one ear, hearing loss, dizziness or unsteadiness, you should call your primary care provider who can rule out other causes of the problem. If you are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, you most likely will be referred to a specialist. At Neurosurgery One, our neurosurgeons evaluate and treat acoustic neuromas, even if they don’t require surgery.
How is an acoustic neuroma treated?
Because most acoustic neuromas are slow growing, it is not unusual for your physician to recommend that your condition is monitored to assess whether the tumor is growing. In many cases, the tumor will not grow or grow so slowly that you do not require treatment.
However, if the tumor is already causing symptoms or growing at an unacceptable rate, your physician may discuss treatment options with you. Some patients whose tumors are growing slowly also decide they want treatment either because they don’t want to have to be monitored regularly with scans or they want to treat the tumor as a preventive measure to ensure they don’t have further hearing loss. Hearing loss caused by an acoustic neuroma cannot be regained.
What procedures are used to treat an acoustic neuroma?
If you and your Neurosurgery One surgeon decide your acoustic neuroma should be treated, there are two treatments used commonly:
- Stereotactic radiosurgery, also known as gamma knife treatment, is the use of high intensity very focused radiation that is aimed precisely at the tumor to destroy the cells. Radiosurgery is an outpatient procedure and patients typically can return to work within a few days. At Neurosurgery One, several neurosurgeons have training and experience in this procedure, including Dr. Adair Prall, Dr. Wissam Asfahani, and Dr. Kofi Kessey.
- Surgery: Traditional surgery is sometimes recommended if the acoustic neuroma is large. This procedure can be performed through the inner ear or through the skull. This surgery requires a hospital stay.