Acoustic neuroma are also referred to as vestibular schwannomas for the type of cell (Schwann cell) from which they originate. These are benign tumors of the vestibular (balance and hearing) nerve. 95% of acoustic neuromas occur on only one side and do not spread to other parts of the body. Acoustic neuromas account for about 7.5% of brain tumors annually.
As with any facial nerve tumor, these tumors can become problematic if they grow large enough or are positioned in such a way as to put pressure on certain facial nerves or structures. Initial symptoms include varying degrees of hearing loss, tinnitus, balance problems, and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear. Should patients experience any of these symptoms, an examination by an ear specialist is recommended.
Patients to our clinic will undergo a careful history and physical examination, including a hearing test (audiogram), and in some cases may undergo balance testing and auditory brainstem response testing (ABR).
Treatment options for patients include observation with serial MRI imaging, microsurgical removal through a craniotomy, and stereotactic radiotherapy (Cyberknife or Gamma Knife). Individualized treatment for each patient is based on tumor size, age, general medical health of the patient, hearing status, and patient wishes. It is important to us that each patient understands all of the available treatment options. Our multidisciplinary team approach encourages a cooperative effort between the neurotologists, radiation oncologists, audiologists, and neurosurgeons. Additionally, our audiology staff is experienced in assisting patients with the hearing rehabilitation process including bone anchored devices such as Baha®.