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Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuroma, a benign, often slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear and the brain. Also known as a vestibular schwannoma, the tumor can damage important nerves as it grows, potentially affecting hearing and balance. 

The Rush Acoustic Neuroma Program brings together a team of highly skilled specialists who have extensive expertise managing these rare tumors and are committed to improving patients' quality of life. The team helps you make informed decisions about management of the tumor and, when needed, rehabilitation for hearing loss. 

Acoustic neuroma symptoms

Symptoms of acoustic neuroma can include the following:

Acoustic neuroma: what you should know

  • Larger tumors may cause facial numbness or weakness.
  • Symptoms of acoustic neuroma often mirror other middle ear conditions, so it can be hard to diagnose.
  • Although many tumors grow slowly and remain small, some may grow large enough to press against the brain, which can be life-threatening. 

Care for acoustic neuroma at Rush

Diagnosis

If you have acoustic neuroma symptoms, your doctor may recommend an MRI of the brain. If a tumor is found, your doctor may refer you to clinicians who specialize in treating acoustic neuromas, like those at the Rush Acoustic Neuroma Program.

It's important to schedule an appointment with an acoustic neuroma specialist to learn about all of your options before you start any type of treatment. 

Planning

Because of the complex nature of acoustic neuromas, Rush offers a team-based approach to evaluation and treatment planning through its Acoustic Neuroma Program. The team collaborates to provide you a comprehensive assessment with advanced options.

As part of your team, you may see specialists from the following areas:

Treatment options

Treatment for acoustic neuroma is not one-size-fits-all. Your personal treatment plan will depend on a variety of factors, including the tumor's size, and your health and age.

  • Watchful waiting: A small, slow-growing tumor may only need to be monitored on a regular basis.

If the acoustic neuroma is larger, faster-growing or causing symptoms, physicians may recommend surgery or radiation therapy:

  • Microsurgical treatment: Surgeons at Rush use microsurgical techniques whenever possible to preserve hearing and facial nerves and to remove the tumor. Your surgeon will speak with you about which approach to use based on your needs. Neurotologists and neurosurgeons at Rush collaborate on the following surgical approaches:
    • Translabyrinthine approach
    • Middle fossa approach
    • Retrosigmoid approach
  • Radiosurgery treatment: Sometimes your team will recommend radiation therapy, or radiosurgery, to stop the tumor growth. Rush offers stereotactic radiosurgery using TrueBeam STx, which reduces treatment time and damage to healthy tissue. 

Following surgery or radiation therapy, your team may recommend that you see additional specialists who are skilled in rehabilitation issues related to hearing, balance, facial movement and headaches:

Why choose Rush for acoustic neuroma care

  • Specialized care: The Rush Acoustic Neuroma Program is the only dedicated acoustic neuroma program in Chicago, featuring a team of specialists who tailor treatment to your needs, choosing the least-invasive treatment possible for the best outcome.
  • Nationally recognized programs: The neurology and neurosurgery programs at Rush are consistently rated among the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Surgical expertise: Physicians at Rush are experts in treating acoustic neuromas using noninvasive skull base surgery to remove the tumor and prevent nerve damage.
  • Targeted radiation therapies: Rush offers stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), a form of radiation therapy that can slow down or stop the growth of tumors.

Departments and programs that treat this condition

Colette had a small acoustic neuroma that was causing severe vertigo, so she turned to specialist

R. Mark Wiet, MD, is director of the Acoustic Neuroma Program at Rush.

Rush's emphasis on research, education and quality care improves the patient experience.