Cholesteatoma, Noncancerous Lump Behind Ear – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Hearing Health | Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 03:00 PM

Cholesteatoma, noncancerous lump behind earCholesteatoma is a noncancerous lump behind ear and can be a result of a middle ear infection. Although cholesteatoma is noncancerous, it is a continuously growing lump, and if it continues to increase its size it can result in other health complications. This lump doesn’t go away on its own, so medical intervention is required for treatment.

A cholesteatoma lump can originate as a cysts or sac that sheds old layers of skin. The accumulation of dead skin cells causes the growth that increases the lump’s size. As the lump grows, delicate bones of the middle ear can get destroyed, affecting hearing, balance, and function of facial muscles.

Cholesteatoma types

There are two types of cholesteatoma: congenital and acquired. Congenital cholesteatoma begins to grow at birth as a result of skin growing in the wrong areas. Acquired cholesteatoma commonly occurs later on in life and is a result of repeated ear infections.

Middle ear infections block the Eustachian tube, which connects the ear to the nose and the throat. Due to the ensuing sucking pressure, a small pocket is formed at the top of the eardrum. Skin cells fill up the pocket and multiply, resulting in cholesteatoma.

Cholesteatoma symptoms and complications

Symptoms of cholesteatoma begin mild and worsen with the continuous growth of the cyst. In its early stages, the ear may begin to drain a foul-smelling fluid, and pain and discomfort can follow depending on the size of the cyst. Pressure from the growing cyst may also lead to some hearing impairment.

If vertigo, facial muscle paralysis, or permanent hearing loss occur, speak to your doctor right away.

If left untreated, cholesteatoma can result in health complications such as the growth of fungus causing an infection, the destruction of surrounding bones, damage to the eardrum, damage to the bones near the brain, and even permanent hearing loss.

Other complications of cholesteatoma include chronic ear infections, swelling of the inner ear, paralysis of facial muscles, meningitis, and brain abscesses.

Cholesteatoma (lump behind ear) causes

hearing loss a sign of poor heart healthThe most common cause of cholesteatoma is recurring ear infection, which causes the Eustachian tube to malfunction. The Eustachian tube may not work properly as a result of ear infections, sinus infections, colds, or allergies.

Cholesteatoma diagnoses and treatment options

To diagnose cholesteatoma, your doctor will examine your ear and check for any signs of a growing cyst, which include visible skin cell deposits or a large mass of blood vessels. A CT scan may also be utilized if signs of cholesteatoma are not obvious.

Surgical removal is the only method of treatment for cholesteatoma as it doesn’t go away naturally. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and ear drops if an infection or inflammation is present.

Cholesteatoma cyst removal is usually a quick procedure that does not require a hospital stay. A hospital stay is only necessary if a serious infection is present. After the removal, a follow-up surgery may be required to fix any damage that the cyst may have caused. Follow-up appointments are also essential to monitor if the cyst has returned.

Only acquired cholesteatoma can be prevented by treating ear infections immediately and reducing your risk of recurring ear infections.

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