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Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma (also known as a vestibular schwannoma) is a rare, slow-growing tumour that grows on the hearing and balance nerves.

It’s treatable and it’s benign, which means it is not cancerous.

Acoustic neuroma and hearing loss

Acoustic neuromas grow very slowly over a number of years. If it grows large enough, it can press on the balance, hearing and facial nerves, which means it can affect hearing and balance.

If it becomes very large it can press against the brain, which is serious. Although most acoustic neuromas are detected and treated well before they reach this stage.

Signs of an acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma may not have obvious symptoms at first. Symptoms will often develop gradually and can include:

  • hearing loss
  • tinnitus
  • vertigo.

A large acoustic neuroma can also cause:

  • headaches that won’t go away
  • short-lived blurred or double vision
  • numbness, pain or weakness on one side of the face
  • problems with the arm and leg on one side of the body
  • a hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing.

What to do if you think you have an acoustic neuroma

Speak to your GP if you think you may have an acoustic neuroma.

If your GP thinks that your symptoms may be due to an acoustic neuroma, they will refer you for some medical tests or to see a specialist.

Medical tests may include:

  • hearing test
  • an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • a CT (computerised tomography) scan.

Acoustic neuroma treatment

If you’re diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, your treatment will depend on a number of things, including:

  • your general health
  • the size and position of the tumour
  • the results of any medical tests.

It’s best to discuss treatment options in detail with your surgeon or radiotherapist.

Acoustic neuromas grow very slowly so there’s no need to rush into a choice of treatment. All treatments happen at specialist centres, and include:

  • monitoring the tumour over time
  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • radiosurgery.