What is an acoustic neuroma?

 (Vestibular Schwannoma)

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  • An acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma) is one of a group of tumours commonly known as skull base tumours. These tumours are usually benign so do not spread to other parts of the body, but if they grow too large, or depending on the location of the tumour,  they will need treatment. Acoustic neuromas (vestibular schwannomas) develop from the Schwann cells which form the myelin sheath that wraps  around the axons of nerve cells. The axons carry messages from the nerves to the brain. The tumour grows into the canal which  carries the axons of  three nerves, the auditory nerve, the vestibular (balance) nerve and the facial nerve, between the ear and the brain (as illustrated in the picture above).  As the tumour grows it puts pressure on these nerves which can lead to symptoms which may include:
    • Loss of hearing
    • Problems with balance
    • Facial weakness

Acoustic neuromas are not common, they account for about 5% of all brain tumours, and they usually grow very slowly. The tumour may have been present for a number of years before any symptoms are noticed. Other tumours such as meningiomas and facial nerve tumours may also arise in the skull base and may present with similar symptoms

More information on acoustic neuromas and other skull base tumours: