An acoustic neuroma is a type of brain tumour that develops from Schwann cells in the inner ear by wrapping around the vestibular (auditory) nerve. The vestibular nerve is responsible for carrying messages from the inner ear to the brain so is related to a person’s ability to hear as well as contributing to one’s sense of balance.
Almost all of these tumours are classified as grade 1 (slow growing) but although they are mainly benign, the symptoms tend to worsen over time. Symptoms are caused when the tumour grows to a point that it puts pressure on the acoustic nerve or those nerves nearby. Symptoms can include hearing loss (often on one side), tinnitus, fascial muscle weakness, headaches and dizziness amongst others.
Some acoustic neuromas grow so slowly that they can simply be monitored with regular scans and may not be treated. Others can grow more rapidly and require treatment either through surgery (where they can often be completely removed) or stereotactic radiotherapy (a highly targeted form of radiotherapy).