Acoustic neuromas (Vestibular SchwanNomas)

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

There are two types of acoustic neuroma.
  • Unilateral acoustic neuromas affect only one ear and account for eight percent of all tumors inside the skull. They may be the result of gene damage caused by environmental factors and may develop at any age, most often between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Bilateral acoustic neuromas affect both ears and are hereditary. This type of tumor is caused by a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2) and typically develops during the teen years or early adulthood.

Acoustic neuromas are relatively rare tumors. They are classified as benign tumors because they do not usually spread to other areas of the body. They also tend to grow slowly, if at all. In rare cases, however, they may grow rapidly and interfere with vital functions as they press against the brain.

Symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma 
Even when the tumors grow slowly, as they increase in size, they may cause any of the following symptoms related to hearing and/or balance: 
  • Hearing loss – typically localized to one side
  • Tinnitus – often referred to as “ringing in the ears” or “head noise”
  • Balance problems or vertigo
  • Paralysis of a facial nerve
  • Headaches
  • Facial numbness

Diagnosing Acoustic Neuroma
Symptoms of an acoustic neuroma may resemble middle and inner ear conditions, and they may be difficult to diagnose. Preliminary diagnostic procedures include ear examination and hearing test. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans help to determine the location and size of the tumor. This information will also be used to develop a treatment plan.
Early diagnosis offers the best opportunity for successful treatment.

Clinical Trials
Researchers at Houston Methodist are engaged in many clinical trials of drugs and other treatment options that are still in development. To find out more about active clinical trials related to acoustic neuromas, please visit the following sites:
  • Houston Methodist Research Institute Clinical Trials
  • Clinical

Patient Stories
Perhaps the best way to learn about our highly trained neurologists and neurosurgeons at Houston Methodist is through our patients. We invite you to read about their inspiring patient stories and their experience of being a patient at Houston Methodist.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in treating  acoustic neuromas at the following convenient locations.