Skip to main content

World-class neurological care
with a personal approach

Misconceptions About Vestibular Schwannoma/Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neuromas, or vestibular schwannomas, are relatively rare conditions, and as such, there are a few common misconceptions about them:

  • Misconception: Acoustic Neuromas are cancerous: One of the most common misconceptions about acoustic neuromas is that they are a form of cancer. In fact, they are benign (noncancerous) tumors. This means they do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
  • Misconception: Acoustic Neuromas always cause symptoms: Acoustic neuromas often grow slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms until they reach a larger size. Some small acoustic neuromas may never cause symptoms or health problems and can be monitored with regular imaging tests rather than immediately treated.
  • Misconception: If I have tinnitus or hearing loss, I must have an Acoustic Neuroma: While tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) can be symptoms of an acoustic neuroma, these conditions are common and can result from many other causes, such as aging, loud noise exposure, earwax buildup, or ear infections. Acoustic neuromas are rare in comparison.
  • Misconception: Surgery is always necessary: Not all acoustic neuromas require immediate treatment. The treatment approach depends on the size of the tumor, the patient’s symptoms, the patient’s overall health, and the potential risks and benefits of treatment. Observation with periodic MRI scans may be recommended for smaller, slow-growing tumors that do not cause symptoms.
  • Misconception: Radiation therapy is harmful or less effective: Stereotactic radiosurgery, a form of radiation therapy, can be a highly effective treatment for acoustic neuromas. It’s noninvasive, usually involves fewer side effects than surgery, and is especially useful for patients who cannot undergo surgery due to health reasons. People often think of radiation as a harmful or last-resort option, but in this context, it’s a precisely controlled and well-tolerated treatment.
  • Misconception: Life expectancy is reduced after diagnosis: Because acoustic neuromas are slow-growing and benign, most patients with this condition have a normal life expectancy. However, depending on the size and location of the tumor, it can cause serious complications if untreated, including difficulty with balance, hearing loss, and, in very rare cases, life-threatening problems if the tumor presses against the brainstem. But with appropriate treatment and management, these complications can typically be avoided.