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What Is an Acoustic Neuroma?

What Is an Acoustic Neuroma?

An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that develops on the vestibular nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. Receiving the diagnosis that you have a tumor is scary, but acoustic neuromas are not cancerous, so they don’t invade or destroy nearby tissue. But, the slow-growing tumor can affect your hearing, balance, and facial muscle function.

If you develop an acoustic neuroma, our acclaimed plastic surgeon Elliott H. Rose, MD, of The Aesthetic Surgery Center in New York City, has the experience and skills to help. You may benefit from careful monitoring if you have a small neuroma or are an older adult, but patients with a large acoustic neuroma that’s causing symptoms will need surgery. 

Here’s what we want you to know about acoustic neuromas and your treatment plan.

What is an acoustic neuroma?

An acoustic neuroma is sometimes called a vestibular schwannoma. It forms on the vestibular nerve, which is the main nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. As the neuroma grows larger, it presses up against your hearing and balance nerves and other nerves that promote facial strength.

What are the symptoms of an acoustic neuroma?

Very small acoustic neuromas show no or few symptoms and are easily missed. Larger acoustic neuromas can compromise hearing, cause ringing in the ears, and interfere with your balance. 

Hearing loss associated with an acoustic neuroma worsens gradually over several months or years. In very rare cases, the loss may be sudden and occur only on one side. 

More than 80% of people with acoustic neuromas suffer from tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can show up in ways other than ringing, too. It can sometimes cause high-pitched buzzing, roaring, or hissing sounds. 

The pressure an acoustic neuroma puts on your vestibular nerve can cause balance problems and dizziness, or vertigo. 

In severe cases, facial numbness, weakness, and loss of facial muscle movement occurs. You may notice that you have trouble making spontaneous expressions and struggle with movements like raising the eyebrows and wrinkling the forehead. You may experience facial spasms, dry eyes, and changes in your sense of taste. 

As the tumor grows larger, facial sensation changes. You feel tingling and numbness, especially near the corner of the mouth or on the cheek. 

How is an acoustic neuroma treated?

Small acoustic neuromas may not require treatment, at least not right away, as they are not causing troublesome symptoms. Dr. Rose usually recommends surgery to remove the neuroma if it’s clearly continuing to grow, already very large, or is causing symptoms. 

The goal of your surgery is to remove the tumor while preserving the integrity of your facial nerve. If you have experienced facial paralysis due to an acoustic neuroma, Dr. Rose also has the skills to reanimate your facial movements and restore more normal expressions, sensations, and appearance. 

We use advanced techniques at the Aesthetic Surgery Center to support movement at the corners of the lips and nostrils, balance facial features, and create facial symmetry. Tendon grafts and regional muscle transfers help restore a more natural look to your face when you’ve suffered serious paralysis due to your acoustic neuroma. 

Following surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma and restore facial appearance, you may also benefit from other supportive therapies. These include balance therapy, occupational therapy, and hearing assistance. Physical therapy to improve facial movements may also be recommended.

If you’ve been diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, seek help from our skilled, experienced plastic surgeon at the Aesthetic Surgery Center. Contact our New York City office by phone to schedule a consultation or use the online tool to book. 

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