An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a tumor on the acoustic nerve that connects the brain with each ear. This type of neuroma is often benign and tends to grow slowly, and patients and their doctors usually decide on the best type of acoustic neuroma treatment by considering the size and location of a tumor. Other considerations include the tumor's effect on surrounding tissues and the age and general health of a patient.
Individuals with small acoustic neuromas that cause few, if any, symptoms often receive periodic monitoring from their doctors, including imaging and hearing tests. These types of tumors may not require additional acoustic neuroma treatment unless they cause an increase in hearing loss or other problems. Some patients, such as older adults, may not be good candidates for surgery, and their doctors may be more likely to recommend continued monitoring instead of surgery.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is a form of radiation treatment that may be used in patients with small tumors or individuals who are not good candidates for traditional surgery. A doctor typically uses an imaging scan and precisely targets a tumor with beams of radiation to gradually destroy the tumor. This form of acoustic neuroma treatment may be repeated over the course of weeks, months or years until desired results are achieved. In some cases, patients have experienced hearing loss, balance problems and facial weaknesses after undergoing this procedure.
Traditional surgery is a form of acoustic neuroma treatment that produces the fastest and most thorough results in many cases. The risks of surgery generally include hearing loss, facial weakness and a persistent headache as well as balance problems, ringing in the ear and a leakage of cerebrospinal fluid through the wound from a surgical incision. A surgeon usually removes a tumor through the inner ear or an incision in the skull, depending on the size and location of the tumor. In most instances, patients remain in the hospital for up to six days following surgery and may require six weeks or more of recovery time.
The symptoms of an acoustic neuroma may include vertigo as well as ringing in the ears and a loss of hearing. Some individuals with this type of medical disorder may experience headaches, dizziness and a pain or numbness in the face or ear. Sleepiness and vision problems have also occurred in some patients with an acoustic neuroma. This type of neuroma is generally not cancerous and does not typically spread to other parts of the body.