Acoustic neuroma

Acoustic neuroma is an uncommon, noncancerous (benign) and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. Because branches of this nerve directly influence your balance and hearing, pressure from an acoustic neuroma can cause hearing loss, ringing in your ear and unsteadiness.

Also known as vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuroma usually grows slowly or not at all. However, in a few cases, it may grow rapidly and become large enough to press against the brain and interfere with vital functions.

Treatments for acoustic neuroma include regular monitoring, radiation and surgical removal.


Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

The signs and symptoms of acoustic neuroma develop from direct effects on the main nerve or from the tumor pressing on adjacent nerves, nearby blood vessels or brain structures.

As the tumor grows, it may be more likely to cause signs and symptoms, although tumor size doesn't always determine effects. It's possible for a small tumor to cause significant signs and symptoms.

You may experience signs and symptoms such as:

  • Hearing loss, usually gradual — although in some cases sudden — and occurring on only one side or more pronounced on one side
  • Ringing (tinnitus) in the affected ear
  • Unsteadiness, loss of balance
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Facial numbness and very rarely, weakness

In rare cases, an acoustic neuroma may grow large enough to compress the brainstem and threaten your life.

When to see your doctor

See your doctor if you notice hearing loss in one ear, ringing in your ear or trouble with your balance. Early diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma may help keep the tumor from growing large enough to cause serious consequences, such as total hearing loss or a life-threatening buildup of fluid within your skull.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use