In the period from 1977 to 1996 143 vestibular schwannomas were diagnosed in 138 patients in the County of Aarhus, Denmark. The natural history of vestibular schwannomas was observed in 50 patients with 52 tumours who did not undergo immediate surgical removal of their tumour due to small tumour size, advanced age, poor general health and the patients' refusal of surgery. The management included serial CT- or MR-imaging and complete otoneurological evaluation. The imaging interval was between 6 months and 2 years and depended on the recorded growth rate. Thirty-three (64%) of the tumours showed continuous growth with a mean growth rate of 1.6 mm/year. In 11 (21%) of the tumours the size was unchanged and eight (15%) remitted. The last group consisted mainly of the largest tumours. Among the tumours with positive growth, 15 (45%) had a growth rate of 1 mm/year or less. Generally, our findings showed that approximately two-thirds of all the tumours did not grow, were getting smaller or had a growth rate sufficiently small to be simply watched. Additionally, our results suggest that some symptomatic tumours will grow to a certain point whereupon stagnation or remission occurs.