Acoustic Neuroma Causes

Authored by Dr Colin Tidy, 15 Jul 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Helen Huins, 15 Jul 2017

An acoustic neuroma is a rare type of growth (tumour) in the brain. It is not cancerous and so is called a benign tumour.

Acoustic neuromas grow from a type of cell called a Schwann cell. These cells cover the nerve cells in the body. This is why the tumour is also called a vestibular schwannoma.

The tumour grows along a nerve in the brain (these nerves are called cranial nerves) that is called the acoustic or vestibulocochlear nerve. This nerve controls your sense of hearing and also your balance. Therefore acoustic neuromas are sometimes called vestibular schwannomas.

Acoustic neuromas tend to grow very slowly and they don't spread to distant parts of the body. Sometimes they are too small to cause any problems or symptoms. Bigger acoustic neuromas can interfere with how the vestibulocochlear nerve works and so causes symptoms.

For most people with an acoustic neuroma, the cause is not known. About 7 out of every 100 acoustic neuromas are caused by a condition called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). NF2 is a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumours of the nervous system. It affects about 1 in 25,000 people.

Almost everyone with NF2 develops an acoustic neuroma on both nerves for hearing (acoustic nerves) - ie there is a tumour on the nerves on both sides of the head (bilateral). People with an acoustic neuroma but who don't have NF2 usually only develop a tumour on one side (unilateral). People with NF2 can also develop benign tumours on the spinal cord and the coverings (membranes) that surround the brain.

Further reading and references

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