Acoustic neuromas are typically benign tumors of the vestibular nerves, part of the vestibulocochlear nerve (8th cranial nerve) complex. These tumors grow slowly in the cerebellopontine angle at the base of the skull, and are often discovered by an evaluation of hearing loss or ringing in one ear. The tumors usually grow slowly over a period of years and expand gradually causing the symptoms described above. The tumors are typically not hereditary, although there is a disease known as neurofibromatosis which commonly has vestibular neuromas associated with it.
Most tumors are discovered in adulthood between the ages of thirty and sixty The tumors had been easily overlooked in the past, but with the advent of more available and more detailed imaging of the brain, the tumors are frequently detected at an earlier and smaller stage.
Work-up usually consists of a detailed examination by a neurosurgeon or an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) surgeon. The patients often undergo imaging studies of the brain (most often MRI, but sometimes CT scan). An audiogram is necessary to evaluate the hearing and the function of the nerves in both ears. After a thorough evaluation, the possible treatment options can be discussed with the patient. These range from merely observation to surgery to radiosurgery. Currently, there are no available medical treatments for control of acoustic neuromas.
The decision to operate or treat the tumor otherwise is often complicated. Evolving technologies continue to provide data to support both surgery by a qualified and experienced team and radiosurgery. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is pleased to offer a dedicated Neuro-Otology team consisting of an ENT surgeon and a Neurosurgeon. In addition, the Medical Center offers stereotactic radiosurgery for appropriate patients. The operating rooms offer microscopes, endoscopes, lasers, computer-guided surgery, and extensive neurophysiological monitoring of the nerves and function of the brain and spinal cord during the operation. In addition, careful and detailed follow-up is available through the Medical Center and the Neuroimaging Division. The Neurosurgery/Neuro-Otology team at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is dedicated to the treatment of disorders of the ear, mastoid CP angle, and acoustic neuromas.