Conditions & Treatments
What is acoustic neuroma?
Acoustic neuroma, also referred to as vestibular schwannoma, is a noncancerous tumor that may develop from an overproduction of Schwann cells that press on the hearing and balance nerves in the inner ear. Schwann cells are cells that normally wrap around and support nerve fibers. If the tumor becomes large, it can press on the facial nerve or brain structure.
What are the symptoms of acoustic neuroma?
The following are the most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
When a neuroma develops, it may cause any or all of the following:
Feeling of fullness in the ear
Tinnitus. A ringing in the ear.
Facial numbness and tingling with possible, though rare, paralysis of a facial nerve
Headaches, clumsy gait, and mental confusion may be life-threatening conditions and require immediate treatment
The symptoms of acoustic neuroma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
What are the different types of acoustic neuromas?
There are two types of acoustic neuromas: Unilateral acoustic neuromas. This type affects only one ear. This tumor may develop at any age, but most often occurs between the ages of 30 and 60. Acoustic neuroma may be the result of gene damage caused by environmental factors, although no environmental factor has been scientifically proved to cause acoustic neuromas. Bilateral acoustic neuromas. This type affects both ears and is hereditary, caused by a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis-2.
How are acoustic neuromas diagnosed? Because symptoms of acoustic neuromas resemble other middle and inner ear conditions, they may be difficult to diagnose. Preliminary diagnostic procedures include an ear examination and a hearing test. Computerized tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) help to determine the location and size of the tumor. Early diagnosis offers the best opportunity for successful treatment. Treatment for acoustic neuroma Specific treatment for acoustic neuroma will be determined by your health care provider based on: Your age, overall health, and medical history Extent of the disease Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies Expectations for the course of the disease Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include observation, surgery, or radiation. Surgery for larger tumors is complicated by the probable damage to hearing, balance, and facial nerves. Another treatment option is radiosurgery, often called the "gamma knife," using carefully focused radiation to reduce the size or limit the growth of the tumor.
Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.
Select a treatment program for more information:
MassGeneral Hospital for Children
Psychology Assessment Center
The pediatric neuropsychology specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychology Assessment Center provide neuropsychological assessments to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological, medical, genetic and developmental disorders. Pediatric Neurosurgery The Pediatric Neurosurgery service at MassGeneral Hospital for Children diagnoses and treats all neurosurgical conditions of infants, children and adolescents, with special expertise in the management of pediatric brain tumors, hydrocephalus, spinal cord disorders, Chiari malformations, craniosynostosis, AVM's and epilepsy surgery.
Department of Neurosurgery
Brain Tumor (Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology)
The Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital offers the most advanced care for patients with brain tumors and nervous system tumors.
Cranial Base Center
Run jointly by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), the Cranial Base Center treats tumors and other cranial nerve disorders.
Department of Radiation Oncology
Central Nervous System Program
Specialists in the Central Nervous System Program in the Department of Radiation Oncology include some of the world's leading experts in using radiation therapies to treat brain tumors and cancers of the spine and peripheral nervous system.