Acoustic Neuroma: Common Symptoms of Benign Brain Tumor

Acoustic neuromas, benign brain tumors that affect balance, can cause many different symptoms. Here are the most common.

Reviewed By:

Rafael Tamargo, M.D. 

An acoustic neuroma (also called a vestibular schwannoma) is a rare type of brain tumor that can affect hearing and balance. It’s benign, which means it isn’t cancerous and won’t spread outside of the brain. Because these tumors grow at different rates, your physician will decide whether to treat it or monitor you carefully.

Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo, M.D., summarizes the most common symptoms of an acoustic neuroma.

The most common acoustic neuroma symptoms are hearing or balance problems.

Most Common Symptoms of Acoustic Neuroma

Because these brain tumors often press on a balance nerve, they can cause symptoms related to balance and hearing, including:

  • Unilateral hearing loss: This means you have hearing loss on one side. If you notice that you tend to talk on the phone with a certain ear, that may be a sign of hearing loss in the other ear. Having a hard time following conversations in a crowded room is another clue.
  • Ear fullness: In addition to a “full” feeling, you may also feel like there’s water in your ear.
  • Noise in the ear: This noise can sound like ringing, putting a seashell up to your ear or even a motor running.
  • Balance problems: You may have problems steadying yourself. In the later stages, as the tumor grows, you may experience falls.

Other Signs of Acoustic Neuroma

While less common, these other signs can sometimes point to an acoustic neuroma brain tumor:

  • Numbness in the face: This is primarily due to a tumor pressing on a facial nerve.
  • Facial twitching or weakness: This could include twitching of the eye or mouth muscles. Less often, you might feel weakness in your face.
  • Swallowing problems: You may find yourself drinking more, if swallowing some foods has become difficult. Another hint to this symptom: Your partner notices you’re snoring more.
  • Change in taste: This symptom is particularly rare but should be evaluated by your doctor.

These symptoms can be caused by many other, often routine health issues. If you have more than a few of these symptoms (especially if they don’t go away or are getting worse), your doctor can help you decide whether more testing is necessary.

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