Acoustic neuroma


Non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour

Enquiries & Appointments

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What is an acoustic neuroma?

Also known as vestibular schwannoma, an acoustic neuroma is a tumour that grows slowly from the covering on the vestibular nerve. This nerve runs from the inner ear to the brainstem and plays a role in maintaining your balance. The tumour is benign, which means it is not cancerous.

They are not strictly brain tumours as they grow from nerve sheath cells (schwann cells) and push against the hind brain (cerebellum) and brain stem only when they are large. A neuroma can still cause balance problems, hearing loss and facial pain and numbness, if the tumour is large enough to put pressure on your brain stem.

Need to know

The most common symptoms of a vestibular schawnnoma include:

  • loss of hearing in the affected ear
  • a buzzing or ringing noise (tinnitus)
  • dizziness
  • balance problems
  • facial weakness, numbness or tingling on one side of the face

Vestibular schwannomas tend to affect adults. They are easily found on MRI scans, but because the symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by other conditions, such as Meniere's disease, scans and the diagnosis are sometimes delayed.

If your consultant suspects you have a vestibular schwannoma, they may perform one or all of the following:

  • tests of hearing and balance
  • an MRI scan (or a CT if you cannot have an MRI)

Your consultant will then discuss the results of any tests with you.

Your consultant will discuss treatment options with you depending on the position and size of your neuroma, how quickly the tumour is growing, and your general health.

Among the main treatment options are:

  • Monitoring the tumour ,with regular MRI scans if the tumour is small
  • Radiation, using machines such as the Gamma Knife or CyberKnife
  • Surgery under general anaesthetic, if the tumour is very large.

Gamma Knife Treatment for Acoustic Neuroma

Radiotherapy treatments have increased in popularity over the past 20 years. The term radiosurgery is generally considered to mean treatment after one session (fraction), but up to 5 fractions can be used in some centres and this is still regarded internationally as being radiosurgery. A single fraction is generally used to treat vestibular schwannomas. The dose of radiation given has reduced over the past 20 years, with a consequent reduction in side effects but without any noticeable reduction in the effectiveness.

Although the term ‘Gamma Knife’ implies a surgical cutting of tissue, no knives are involved, and the technique employs converging beams of radiation, delivering a high dose of radiation to the tumour, with a much lower dose to the surrounding tissue. The success of treatment is measured by growth arrest rather than tumour removal with the efficacy being at least 95% as shown by the latest published results.

What other treatment options are available?

There are different radiotherapy tools for delivering radiosurgery treatments, including Gamma KnifeCyberKnife and TrueBeam. It is considered that these treatments are probably equivalent, but Gamma Knife has the longest track record and most of the published results.

There is also a demonstrably much lower dose of radiation to the body from the Gamma Knife compared with the CyberKnife and other linear accelerators, with a correspondingly lower risk of developing a cancer elsewhere in the body from that exposure. 

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Acoustic neuroma in children

A specialist service for children is offered by HCA UK at a number of locations. This includes;

  • Bespoke equipment for children
  • Experienced paediatric consultants
  • Nursing support with children friendly facilities   

Our locations

SPECIALIST UNIT  London Neurosurgery Partnership

SPECIALIST UNIT London Neurosurgery Partnership

78 Harley Street W1G 7HJ London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.