An acoustic neuroma, or a vestibular schwannoma, is a benign tumor that grows on the nerve responsible for hearing and balance in the inner ear which sends information from the ear to the brain. Typically slow-growing, most acoustic neuromas are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60 and affect more women than men.
The most common symptom of an acoustic neuroma is hearing loss in the affected ear. This loss may be mild but is usually progressive. Other symptoms include a ringing noise (tinnitus) in the ear or a sense of ear fullness. Many patients complain of vague imbalance or, occasionally, vertigo (the false sensation of moving). When an acoustic neuroma is large and pushes against the brain it can cause headache and facial numbness and weakness.
Treatment of an acoustic neuroma depends upon its size, rate of growth and location as well as the amount of hearing loss and age of the patient. Common approaches to treatment are careful observation (essentially no treatment), surgical removal and focused radiation therapy (radiosurgery).