Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Acoustic Neurinoma

Acoustic Neurinoma

Balance

The vestibular system:

  • controls balance
  • controls posture
  • regulates locomotion and other movements
  • provides conscious awareness of orientation in space
  • provides conscious awareness of visual fixation in motion

Balance can be impaired by:

  • disease
  • altered gravity
  • aging
  • exposure to unusual motion

When balance is impaired, normal movement is affected, as well as motivation, concentration, and memory.

An estimated 2 million adults suffer from chronic dizziness or difficulty with balance. It particularly affects people aged 65 or older.

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

What is acoustic neurinoma?

Acoustic neurinoma is a non-cancerous tumor that may develop from an overproduction of Schwann cells that press on the hearing and balance nerves in the inner ear. Schwann cells are cells that normally wrap around and support nerve fibers. If the tumor becomes large, it can press on the facial nerve or brain structure.

What are the symptoms of acoustic neurinoma?

The following are the most common symptoms of acoustic neurinoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

When a neurinoma develops, it may cause any/all of the following:

  • hearing loss
  • tinnitus
  • dizziness
  • paralysis of a facial nerve
  • life-threatening problems in the brain

The symptoms of acoustic neurinoma may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What are the different types of acoustic neurinomas?

There are two types of acoustic neurinomas:
  • Unilateral acoustic neurinomas affect only one ear, and:

    • account for 8 percent of all tumors inside the skull.
    • may develop at any age, but most often occur between the ages of 30 and 60.
    • may be the result of gene damage caused by environmental factors.
  • Bilateral acoustic neurinomas affect both ears, and:

    • are hereditary, caused by a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2).
    • develop in the teens or early adulthood.

How are acoustic neurinomas diagnosed?

Because symptoms of acoustic neurinomas resemble other middle and inner ear conditions, they may be difficult to diagnose. Preliminary diagnostic procedures include ear examination and hearing test. Computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans help to determine the location and size of the tumor.

Early diagnosis offers the best opportunity for successful treatment.

Treatment for acoustic neurinoma:

Specific treatment for acoustic neurinoma will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include surgery to remove small acoustic neurinomas. Surgery for larger tumors is complicated by the probable damage to hearing, balance, and facial nerves. Another treatment option is radiosurgery using carefully focused radiation to reduce the size or limit the growth of the tumor.