An acoustic neuroma is also known as a vestibular schwannoma, schwannoma, or neurilemmoma. An acoustic neuroma affects the nerves responsible for hearing and balance.
This type of non-malignant brain tumour grows from the sheath surrounding the eighth cranial nerve and as a result can cause such symptoms as hearing loss, balance difficulty and tinnitus. The size of the tumour when first diagnosed is variable and in some cases can be quite large.
Common symptoms include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Hearing loss in one ear
- Lack of coordination
- Tingling or numbness in the face
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Walking and balance problems
- Double vision
- Trouble with speech or swallowing
Treatment/Standard of Care
There are three treatment options available:
- Observation (monitoring)
- Microsurgical removal (partial or total)
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (single fraction) or radiotherapy (multiple daily fractions delivered using stereotactic techniques)
Some of the factors that influence the optimal treatment strategy include the age of the patient, the size of the tumour, whether the tumour is growing, whether symptoms are present (e.g. imbalance or tinnitus), the quality of the hearing before treatment, the individual results of the surgeon, and the patient’s personal preferences. It is important the patient is fully counselled with regards to the risks and benefits of each option.
Acoustic neuromas can be difficult tumours to remove surgically. Patients with acoustic neuromas should be referred to neurosurgeons with particular expertise in surgery for this tumour type.