Cholesteatoma 101: What is This “Growth in the Ear”? - Hear More Associates


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Cholesteatoma is a serious condition that should be treated by a local ENT specialist. If you have recurring ear problems, tell your ENT about Cholesteatoma at your next appointment. In the meantime, read on to learn more about this “growth in the ear” and discover what you should do.

Understanding Cholesteatoma 

A cholesteatoma is a cluster of skin cells found deep within the ear that forms into a harmless cyst. The term cholesteatoma is derived from the Greek word toma, which means a swelling or tumor.

This benign tumor can be inherited (through genetics) or acquired (developed later in life). Both are caused by keratinizing cells in the temporal bone. The growths develop in the middle ear behind the eardrum. 

The Symptoms 

In most cases, only one ear is affected. Among the symptoms are the following: 

  • Fluid dripping or drainage 
  • Foul odors
  • Ear pressure
  • Deafness 
  • Vertigo or dizziness 
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the face 

The People at Risk

Chronic ear infections or eardrum perforation increase the risk of developing cholesteatoma. Early symptoms include mild pain, pressure, hearing loss, and drainage. A cholesteatoma causes dizziness, numbness, weakness on one side of the face, and blood-tinged mucus draining from one ear. 

Congenital cholesteatoma affects children at birth. Their hearing loss may be painless. At first glance, the ear appears normal, but closer inspection reveals a white structure: trapped skin behind the eardrum. 

The Diagnosis

An otoscope will be used to look for cholesteatoma in the interior of your ear. They can see the cholesteatoma, which looks like a skin cyst or a group of blood vessels. Moreover, a CT scan may be ordered if cholesteatoma cannot be detected. 

The Treatment

Cholesteatoma can only be treated by removing it. The cyst will continue to grow and cause damage to the surrounding bone and tissue if surgery is not performed. Untreated cholesteatoma can cause permanent hearing loss, vertigo, and nerve damage. 

In severe cases, cholesteatoma is surgically removed. If caught early, antibiotics, ear drops, and careful cleaning can all be used to treat it. 

The procedure reduces the likelihood of infection, reduces inflammation, and drains the cyst’s ear. 

Untreated Cholesteatoma

Unresponsive cholesteatomas are unfortunately quite common and are best treated surgically. Cholesteatomas grow in size and can cause the following symptoms: 

  • Tissue and bone destruction 
  • Numbness caused by damage to the facial nerves
  • Rare infections such as meningitis and others
  • Ear infections 
  • Interruption of hearing due to swelling of the inner ear 

Because of the seriousness of cholesteatoma symptoms, it is critical to see a doctor if you have any symptoms or risk factors. 

Cholesteatoma and Hearing

Cholesteatoma disease manifests itself in a variety of ways. Recurrent cholesteatoma patients may require a more invasive procedure, such as a tympanomastoidectomy, which repairs the middle ear in chronic ear infection patients. While the infection is likely to be eradicated, regaining hearing is unlikely. 

In patients with early-stage disease who have not undergone surgery, the chances of a successful hearing outcome and cholesteatoma removal are quite high.


Perhaps it’s time we stop taking our hearing for granted. So as we further take care of our bodies, we must also consider checking our ears for any conditions that we may or may not be noticing. This way, we are ensured of our desired quality of holistic living.

Hear More Associates can give you access to the best hearing aid in Rhode Island. Our organization is led by the region’s most respected hearing care specialists for your needs. Book your appointment with us today!

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