Acoustic neuroma is a rare benign (non-cancerous) tumour that arises from the sheath surrounding the vestibulocochlear nerve (the nerve that helps you to hear and maintain balance in posture). In most cases, the tumour is not diagnosed in the initial stages as the symptoms are likely to be subtle and may not appear in the beginning stages of growth. To diagnose acoustic neuroma, your doctor will ask a number of questions pertaining to your medical history, perform a physical exam and recommend a number of tests or procedures. Scroll down to know more on how acoustic neuroma is diagnosed.
Medical history: Your doctor may ask you a number of questions similar to the ones below;
- When did the symptoms start?
- Do you experience the symptoms continuously or occasionally?
- Are your symptoms bothersome or severe?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if there is any, worsens your symptoms?
- Whether any other member in your family has acoustic neuroma or not?
- Is there any risk factor/s for acoustic neuroma such as exposure to low-dose radiation of the head and neck during childhood or excessive use of cellular telephones?
Apart from asking questions, your doctor will gather the personal history of your medical problems, medicines (prescribed or not prescribes and other supplements) you may be taking and family history of any medical condition. The doctor will do a complete ‘general physical exam’ (such as take your pulse, blood pressure, look at the skin within the ears and eyes) and a neurological exam (test for hearing, balance or any other neurological problem).
Acoustic Neuroma Tests: If the signs and symptoms suggest acoustic neuroma, your doctor may recommend several tests to confirm the diagnosis of acoustic neuroma. Some tests done for acoustic neuroma include:
- Hearing test (audiogram): The test is done by a hearing specialist (audiologist). You will be made to wear earphones and hear sounds directed at one ear at a time. A range of sounds of various tones are tested and you will be asked to acknowledge each time you hear the sound. The audiologist will test your hearing ability by presenting various words to your ears
- Computerised tomography (CT) scans and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): These are painless and non-invasive tests that can provide images to confirm the presence of an acoustic neuroma. If required, your doctor will use intravenous dye (contrast) to obtain enhanced images of the tumor.
- Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER): The hearing and neurological functions of your brain are assessed with this test. The response of your brain to clicking noises you hear through earphones are tested and recorded on a graph.
These are some tests that can help the doctor detect acoustic neuroma in the initial stages, determine the location and size of tumor and plan treatment.
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