- An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumour that grows in the acoustic nerve, the eighth cranial nerve in the brain.
- An acoustic neuroma can affect your hearing and balance and may cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- If your doctor suspects you have acoustic neuroma, they might send you for tests such as hearing tests or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy (also known as stereotactic treatment) and careful monitoring.
What is acoustic neuroma?
An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) tumour that can affect hearing and balance.
What are the symptoms of acoustic neuroma?
Usually, acoustic neuromas grow very slowly. This means that you may not have any symptoms in the early stages when the tumour is small.
Many people with acoustic neuromas notice some hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Usually only one ear is affected, but both ears can be involved if the person has a rare genetic disease called neurofibromatosis type 2. Neurofibromatosis is a genetic condition characterised by the growth of benign tumours.
Whether or not there are any other symptoms can depend on the size of the tumour and how hard it presses on the acoustic nerve. Some people with an acoustic neuroma experience:
- loss of balance, dizziness or vertigo (a feeling that the space around you is spinning)
- facial numbness or tingling
- blurred vision
- problems with coordination on one side of the body
What causes acoustic neuroma?
The cause of acoustic neuroma is usually not known. A few people who have an acoustic neuroma also have neurofibromatosis type 2, but for most people, there is no known cause.
How is acoustic neuroma diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have acoustic neuroma, they may send you for tests such as hearing tests or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI allows your doctor to see if there's a tumour, its size and position.
How is acoustic neuroma treated?
The options for treatment include:
- 'watch and wait' — monitoring the tumour growth and related symptoms
- surgery — to remove the tumour
- stereotactic treatment — this procedure sends radiation to the tumour to stop it from growing
The treatment recommended for you will depend on:
- the size and location of the tumour
- your symptoms
- your age
- your general health
- your preferences
What are the complications of acoustic neuroma?
Although acoustic neuromas are not cancerous, they can cause distressing symptoms and lasting hearing and balance problems. If they're not treated, some acoustic neuromas can cause serious, permanent damage to nerves.
Resources and support
Contact the Acoustic Neuroma Association Australia for support and information.
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Last reviewed: April 2023