An atypical, non cancerous tumour arising from supporting cells that surround the vestibulocochlear nerve, usually within the internal auditory meatus (the canal in the skull through which the nerve passes from the inner ear to the brain).
Cause and incidence
Acoustic neuromas are slightly more common in women than men and most commonly occur in people between the ages of 40-60.
Often the cause of an acoustic neuroma is unidentified. However tumours that affect the nerves on either side of the head simultaneously may be part of a widespread neurofibromatosis (a disease characterised by changes in the nervous system, bones and skin).
An acoustic neuroma can cause loss of balance, pain in the face, deafness, tinnitus (noises in the ear) and pain in the affected ear. As the tumour grows it can lead to additional complications such as ataxia (loss of coordination) due to the compression of the cerebellum and brainstem.
Diagnosis and treatment
Hearing tests followed by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan will be to diagnose. If the tumour is small, regular monitoring with MRI may be all that is necessary. A bigger tumour may need to be removed by microsurgery, although radiotherapy to shrink the tumour can also be effective. To check for recurrence of the tumour follow up MRI scans are usually also performed.