Early onset of vestibular schwannoma (VS) is associated with the inherited condition neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). However, the majority of NF2 presents bilaterally and the proportion of early-onset apparent sporadic unilateral VS because of NF2 remains to be determined. We have determined the risk by studying NF2 risk in a population-based set of VS, looking at the mode of presentation in a large NF2 data set and the outcome of NF2 mutation analysis in 148 sporadic unilateral VS. The risk of NF2 in an apparently sporadic case of unilateral VS is small apart from in the very youngest age group (<20 years). NF2 germ line mutation testing is unlikely to reveal a mutation except <20 years as a result of the low risk and high rates of mosaicism. Germ line mutation testing is probably only justified in sporadic unilateral VS <20 years unless other features of NF2 are present. Ideally mutation testing should start with the original tumour specimen.