Acoustic Neuroma - Causes

What are the causes of an acoustic neuroma?

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.

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Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
13578 (v4)
Last Checked:
15 July 2017
Next Review:
14 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.