Acoustic neuroma is a type of noncancerous (benign) primary brain tumor that starts in the cells that wrap around nerves in your ear.
Also called vestibular schwannoma or neurilemoma, most acoustic neuromas grow very slowly. As this happens, the tumor begins to press on nearby nerves, blood vessels, and the surface of the brain stem and cerebellum (the base of the brain, just above the brain stem).
Acoustic neuroma tumors begin in what are called Schwann cells. These cells make myelin, which is the material that insulates and protects the nerves throughout your body.
- Most acoustic neuromas begin in the vestibular nerve. The vestibular nerve helps you keep your balance.
- Some acoustic neuromas begin in the cochlear nerve. The cochlear nerve sends sound from your inner ear to your brain.
The pressure from a growing acoustic neuroma tumor can cause such symptoms as movement and balance problems. Each year in the United States, between 3,000 and 5,000 people, usually between the ages of 30 and 60, are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.
Risk Factors for Acoustic Neuroma
There are no obvious risk factors for developing an acoustic neuroma. Most affect only one ear.
Some people develop acoustic neuromas in both ears as part of a hereditary disorder called neurofibromatosis type 2. This is rare, and when it does happen, teens and young adults are most often affected.
How We Care for You
The acoustic neuroma experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering will make or confirm your diagnosis. We’ll evaluate what combination of observation of your condition, surgery, or radiation therapy will work best for you.
Working as a team, our experts will
- quickly determine if acoustic neuroma is causing the symptoms you’re having
- design a treatment plan customized specifically for you
- start with surgery, radiation, or other treatments right away
- offer you life-long follow-up care, as well as the resources of a survivorship program that has support groups, integrative medicine resources, and more
An appointment to see one of our neurologists or neurosurgeons for an acoustic neuroma diagnosis or treatment is usually available within days.