An acoustic neuroma is a benign tissue growth situated in the hearing canal. It is sometimes referred to as a vestibular schwannoma or neurinoma. It grows very slowly, pressing on the hearing and balance nerves and possibly causing pressure on the base of the brain in larger tumours.  It is one of many types of tumours that may occur in the cranium (see Other Cranial Tumours).

Over 300 people in Australia each year will be told they have an acoustic neuroma. The early symptoms of an acoustic neuroma can be deceptive and may mimic less serious problems. As the pressure expands, it can extend pressure into the area at the base of the brain and press on the vital structure of the brain stem. Death may eventually result, if left untreated. The good news for the person diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma is that treatment or removal are possible and successful. Most patients with acoustic tumours return to a normal lifestyle.


The early symptoms include:

  • reduced hearing in one ear
  • distorted hearing in one ear
  • ear noise (tinnitus)
  • balance problems
  • feeling of fullness in one ear
  • altered hearing sensation

Large tumours may produce additional symptoms including headache, facial pain, numbness or twitching, double vision and swallowing problems.


See your General Practitioner for tests to rule out the possibility of an acoustic neuroma. You may be referred to a Specialist and have a CT scan or MRI scan. Early diagnosis leads to improved surgical results. The smaller the tumour the greater likelihood there is of a favourable outcome.

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