Because of its location, an acoustic neuroma can produce serious symptoms or even death by compression of important structures, including the cranial nerves and the brainstem.
As the acoustic neuroma grows, it presses against the nerves associated with hearing and balance. This results in early symptoms of acoustic neuroma, such as:
- One-sided or high-tone hearing loss
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Loss of balance.
As the tumor grows, later symptoms may include:
- Facial numbness
- Weakness of facial muscles
- Paralysis of facial muscles.
In order to make an acoustic neuroma diagnosis, the doctor must ask a series of questions about a person's medical history, perform a physical exam, and recommend a number of tests for acoustic neuroma.
The tests include:
- A hearing test (audiogram)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans, enhanced with intravenous dye (contrast)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), enhanced with intravenous dye (contrast).
These tests are critical in the early detection of an acoustic neuroma, and are helpful in determining the location and size of a tumor and in planning its removal.
Making an early diagnosis is the key to preventing serious consequences of an acoustic neuroma. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options include:
- Surgical removal (see Acoustic Neuroma Surgery)
- Watchful waiting.
The doctor can describe the options available for treating your acoustic neuroma and the expected results of each. The two of you can work together to develop an acoustic neuroma treatment plan that meets your medical needs and personal values. Choosing the most appropriate form of treatment is a decision that ideally involves both you and your healthcare team.