Acoustic Tumors

Acoustic Tumors are benign growths of the lining of the hearing nerve that can interfere with your hearing and balance. If left untreated they can grow and affect brain function. CNC Hearing and Balance Center and Culicchia Neuro Neurotologist Moises Arriaga discusses acoustic tumors and treatment options in this video.


Acoustic tumors are an important condition that can affect the hearing and balance nerve. These are benign growths of the lining of the hearing and balance nerve, and they often start very small, but they can grow to be quite large and even be life threatening. Because they start very small and can present with just a little difference in the hearing, we are very aggressive at identifying them when they are small. So if there’s a difference in hearing between the two ears, we often will get an MRI to identify these growths. These are not cancers. They don’t go to other parts of the body. but if they get large, they can put pressure on the brain and become life threatening.

In general, there are three treatments for acoustic tumors. For some patients, particularly when the tumor is small, we’ll simply get another scan in six months. And if it’s not growing, we’ll go ahead and scan on a yearly basis to make sure the tumor does not pose a threat. There are two actual treatments. One is to remove the tumor. And there are really two ways to remove it. In one strategy, we go right through the inner ear itself. When we do that to reach the tumor, we cannot save the hearing, but it means we don’t have to put any pressure around the brain to take the tumor out.

The other strategy is one that gives us about a 70% chance of saving hearing, 50% chance of keeping the hearing at the current level. And those are hearing preservation tumor surgeries. We can do that from above with the middle fossa operation, or from behind what the retrosigmoid operation. The third general treatment for acoustic tumors is radiation. We like to use stereotactic radiation, which means the radiation is focused on where the tumor comes from. This is not like the old days, where people would get their whole head radiated and lose all their hair and have all sorts of brain issues related to that.

Instead, this is highly focused radiation on the tumor. 90% of the time, this radiation is effective at preventing the tumor from growing. However, whenever we use radiation, we always mention the tiny possible risk of turning this from non-cancerous to cancerous. Also, radiation is not very effective at preserving the hearing on a long-term basis. However, if the risks of surgery are substantial because of other medical problems, radiation is a wonderful way to control these tumors before they get a chance to cause significant compression of the brain.

Do you have a hearing or balance issue? Call our clinic at 504-934-8320 for an appointment with one of our audiologists or to schedule a free hearing screening. CNC Hearing and Balance Center has locations in Marrero, Uptown New Orleans and Mandeville.