As I’ve said in other articles (and no doubt will continue to say) there are certain medical conditions that many of us will never even hear about let alone have to endure.
That creates a problem.
If we turn to the animal world we see example after example of snakes and spiders that are harmless, imitating animals that are poisonous. What is my point?
Part of the problem with getting little-known conditions diagnosed is that their symptoms imitate common disorders and since we don’t know to look for them before you know it you’re in trouble.
So it is with Vestibular Schwannoma (Acoustic Neuroma) and Neurofibromatosis.
What is a vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma)?
A vestibular schwannoma also goes by the name acoustic neuroma, acoustic neurinoma or acoustic neurilemoma. It is a benign and slow-growing tumor that comes from the balance and hearing nerves that supply the inner ear.
There is a type of cell that wraps around nerve fibers with much the same texture as onion skin to help support and protect nerves. These cells are called Schwann cells. As the vestibular schwannoma grows it presses against hearing and balance nerves. Usually this affects just one side of the face. It is termed unilateral. The symptoms that come about are dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus which is ringing in the ear. It should be noted that the release of nerve cells is the abnormal condition referred to into the title as “Neurofibromatosis.”
There are multiple reasons for all of these consitions.
A Vestibular Schwannoma presents a major danger if left untreated. It can grow to the point where it can cause facial pain; it can cause facial paralysis and finally it can press against the brain and become life-threatening.
How is Vestibular Schwannoma diagnosed?
Again we must go back to my earlier comment that the symptoms of dizziness, tinnitus and hearing loss are symptoms associated with many ear conditions. Further symptoms of the condition are often very mild and even unnoticeable. So diagnosis usually comes with more specific investigation.
There are several tests typically employed to examine the ear and diagnose this condition.
An audiogram is a direct test and examination of the ear. Sensitive contrast studies like MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CTs (Computerized Tomography) are employed.
Generally speaking treatment consists of removal of the benign growth but if a person has any kind of a severe or chronic illness or is elderly, doctors may opt to simply observe the growth.
Sometimes people are affected on both sides concerning their hearing. One-sided hearing loss is called “unilateral” and if both sides are involved then it is called “bilateral.”
The major difference besides extra involvement is the genetic factor. Unilateral vestibular schwannomas are not hereditary while children of bilaterally affected parents have a fifty percent chance of being affected.
Vestibular Shwannoma is one of those conditions that can be silent almost until it has done too much damage.
“Vestibular Schwannoma (Acoustic Neuroma) and Neurofibromatosis,” Fact Sheet, February 2004, NIDCD
National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1-800-241-1044