Acoustic Neuroma | Otolaryngology (ENT) | Loyola Medicine

Acoustic Neuroma

Overview and Facts about Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a rare, benign (noncancerous) nerve origin tumor that grows slowly, originating from the balance nerve of the inner ear. This tumor is also known as a vestibular schwannoma. Although the tumor is noncancerous, it can cause pressure that leads to hearing loss, ringing in the ear, dizziness, facial numbness and headache.

In rare cases, acoustic neuromas can grow faster and larger, pressing on the brain and causing total hearing loss or build-up of fluid in the skull that can be life threatening.

Early diagnosis is key to successfully treating acoustic neuromas. Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice hearing loss in one ear, trouble with balance or ringing in the ear. Treatment includes active surveillance, surgery and radiation therapy.

Why Choose Loyola for Treatment of Acoustic Neuroma?

Loyola’s highly experienced team has performed more than 3,000 combined skull based surgeries with low morbidity, shortened hospital stays, few complications and high-long term survival and cure rates. We utilize advanced techniques to treat both newly diagnosed and recurrent tumors of the skull, brain and spinal cord. Loyola’s surgeons perform the most acoustic neuroma surgeries in the Chicagoland area.

Loyola is a world-class academic medical center, and our clinicians and laboratory investigators collaborate to better understand the growth and development of brain and spine tumors so we can ensure the most positive outcomes for our patients. 

Causes and Risk Factors of Acoustic Neuroma

The exact cause of acoustic neuroma is unknown and in the majority of cases it is has been found to occur spontaneously (for no reason). In much less common cases, acoustic neuromas have been linked to a very rare genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 2. Environmental factors have not been proven links to acoustic neuroma.

The most common age groups affected are middle-aged adults, and women are affected more often than men, but acoustic neuromas have been found in patients of all ages.

Symptoms and Signs of Acoustic Neuroma

Symptoms that may point to the diagnosis of acoustic neuroma include:

  • Gradual or sudden hearing loss, on one side
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear(s))
  • Loss of balance or unsteadiness
  • Facial numbness

Early diagnosis is key to treating acoustic neuroma successfully. Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice hearing loss in one ear, trouble with balance or ringing in the ear. 

Tests and Diagnosis of Acoustic Neuroma

Loyola’s team of expert otolaryngologists has the advanced skills and technology you need to determine if you have an acoustic neuroma. After conducting a thorough medical exam and reviewing your medical history, your ENT doctor will obtain a hearing test to assess any auditory issues. He/she will also need to perform imaging tests, including:

  • MRI (magnetic resource imaging)
  • CT scans (computed tomography)

These tests produce a visual image of your brain to help confirm the diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma as small as 1-2 millimeters. 

Treatment and Care for Acoustic Neuroma

Treatment options for acoustic neuroma vary depending on the size and location of the tumor, your age and general health, and if the tumor has grown.

If the tumor is small and does not appear to be growing (or if you are not a good candidate for surgery), your doctor may recommend active surveillance or “watch and wait” treatment, in which the tumor is monitored over a period of time. Monitoring involves hearing tests and imaging scans every 12 months to determine if the tumor is growing or interfering with vital functions.

If your doctor finds that additional treatment is necessary, you may need to undergo surgery or stereotactic radiosurgery.

Acoustic Neuroma Surgery

Surgery may be necessary for larger tumors or for those too close to critical areas. Our goal is to remove the tumor and preserve hearing function and the facial nerve.

In acoustic neuroma surgery, a surgeon removes the tumor through the inner ear or through a small opening in the skull behind the ear. Loyola’s surgeons perform the most acoustic neuroma surgeries in Chicagoland. Surgery has inherent risks and may create complications. Learn more about acoustic neuroma surgery at Loyola.