What Is An Acoustic Neuroma And Its Diagnosis?

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Acoustic neuroma refers to a noncancerous tumor that appears in the main nerve leading from the area of your inner ear to the brain. This tumor is slow-growing and it is also called a vestibular schwannoma. This nerve has some branches.

These branches influence your balance and the ability of hearing. If pressure is coming from the acoustic neuroma, you can get the ringing sensation in the ear, unsteadiness, and loss of hearing. Usually, acoustic neuroma arises from the area of Schwann cells.

These cells work to cover this nerve. They may grow slowly or sometimes not grow at all. These cells can have rapid growth sometimes but this condition is rare. The size of these cells becomes large from the rapid growth and starts interfering with necessary functions.

Treatments for acoustic neuroma consist of regular monitoring, surgical removal, and radiation. If you suspect that you have an acoustic neuroma, consult your doctor immediately. Do not ignore this condition because it can cause serious complications.

Symptoms

You may take several years to develop the symptoms of acoustic neuroma if you have this condition. The symptoms usually develop because the tumor starts affecting your balance nerves and hearing. 

The pressure of the tumor on brain structures and blood vessels can lead to problems sometimes. There are certain nerves that control sensations and your facial muscles. If a tumor exerts pressure on these nerves, you can get complications.

Growth of the tumor causes more symptoms that can be easily noted. Common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include ringing sensation in the affected ear, loss of muscle movement, weakness, and facial numbness. 

These symptoms also include loss of balance and hearing loss that becomes worse in months or years but this case is very rare. It occurs at one or both sides and can be more severe on one side of your ear. 

Acoustic neuroma can sometimes grow enough and start compressing the brainstem. It becomes life-threatening but this condition is rare. If you notice a loss of hearing in your one ear, issues of balance, and ringing sensation in the ear, consult your doctor. 

Early diagnosis can help to stop the further growth of the tumor. It prevents you to get serious complications and complete hearing loss.

Causes

Reasons behind acoustic neuromas can be associated with the issue with a gene on your chromosome 22. Normally, this gene works to produce a protein. This protein functions as a tumor suppressor and control Schwann cell’s growth that covers the nerves.

Experts do not have information about the cause that leads to problems with these genes. The exact cause is not known in most cases of the development of tumors in acoustic neuroma. The faulty gene is present in neurofibromatosis also and this gene is inherited.

It is a disorder in which the growth of tumor occurs on both balance and hearing nerves present on both sides of the head. This disorder is very rare.

Diagnosis

It is often tough to diagnose acoustic neuroma if it is in the early stages. The reason is that people with acoustic neuroma easily miss symptoms at the start. These symptoms take time to develop. Common symptoms like loss of hearing are linked with issues of the inner and middle ear.

Your doctor suggests an ear exam after asking a certain question from you regarding your symptoms. He or she can order the tests given below.

Hearing Test

It is known as audiometry. A hearing specialist works to conduct this test. You hear some sounds that are directed to your one ear. Audiologists present different tones. He or she asks you to differentiate or identify each time you hear that tone or sound. 

The levels of the tone are altered each time. Audiologist notice when you hear the sound barely. He can present different words to check your hearing ability.

Imaging

Usually, magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is used with contrast dye in order to make a diagnosis for acoustic neuroma. This imaging test helps to identify tumors that are one to two millimeters in diameter. Your doctor can use computerized tomography in case if MRI is not available.

CT scans can also be used and they miss a small number of tumors. Testing depends on the condition of your ear.

Treatment

Your treatment for acoustic neuroma can vary. It is associated with your symptoms severity, growth and size of the tumor, and overall health. A doctor can recommend surgery to remove the tumors.