Acoustic neuroma, also called vestibular schwannoma, is a rare, non-cancerous, slow-growing tumor that develops on the main nerve connecting your inner ear to your brain. This nerve is responsible for hearing and balance.
Symptoms of acoustic neuroma include:
- Hearing loss, usually gradual, but it can be sudden, and mainly on one side
- Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Facial numbness
Sometimes the tumor doesn't grow at all. In a few cases, it grows large enough to press against your brainstem, which can be life-threatening. Acoustic neuroma is not cancerous, and it does not spread to other parts of your body.
Acoustic Neuroma Care at UVM Medical Center
Acoustic neuroma is best managed by radiologists, neurosurgeons and otolaryngologists (surgeons who specialize in disorders of the ears, nose and throat – also known as ENTs). Our physicians and support staff work together to provide your care.
Our team makes all diagnostic and treatment recommendations based on the latest thinking in the field. We use the latest technology and, when possible, minimally invasive procedures to treat acoustic neuroma.
Acoustic Neuroma Diagnosis
Our otolaryngologists and radiologists diagnose acoustic neuroma through the following tests:
In 90 percent of cases, hearing loss in one ear is the first symptom. The exact cause of acoustic neuroma is unknown, but a couple of factors may increase your risk of developing the condition, including:
- Neurofibromatosis type 3 – a rare genetic disorder
- Childhood exposure to low-dose radiation of the head and neck
Acoustic Neuroma Treatments
If you have a small acoustic neuroma that isn't growing or is growing slowly and causes few or no symptoms, regular observation and monitoring may be all that is required. We will monitor your tumor with regular imaging and hearing tests to detect any changes in size.
One form of stereotactic radiosurgery is Gamma Knife radiosurgery. This procedure does not involve an actual knife or cutting, and there is minimal damage to surrounding tissue. It can be done with local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.
If your acoustic neuroma needs to be surgically removed, our goal is to protect the facial nerve and save your hearing when possible. The technique used to remove the neuroma depends on the size of the tumor, your hearing before the surgery and other factors.