Cholesteatoma is a form of abnormal skin growth usually resultant from the ear attempting to heal itself following a rupture of the eardrum. Instead of healing normally, skin may begin to grow into the perforated eardrum.

Infection can cause this skin to swell with fluid, forming a benign tumor that exerts pressure on the delicate bones of the middle ear and may cause dizziness, conductive or sensorineural hearing loss, and balance problems. Though often described as a tumor of the ear, the presence of a cholesteatoma does not indicate cancer.

Common Causes

The key to preventing a cholesteatoma is the prevention of eardrum perforations. These injuries can have many causes, including sudden loud noises, blows to the ear, and even overzealous or inappropriate cleaning of the ear canal.


Most cholesteatomas are first identified by foul-smelling fluid draining from the afflicted ear, but other symptoms include:

  • Pain and/or pressure in the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Numbness leading to facial paralysis

Treatment Options

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, contact your physician. After a thorough evaluation to determine the extent of the damage, your doctor may treat the existing infection using antibiotics. You may also be required to return to the office for a series of ear canal cleanings. Once the ear canal is relatively healthy and dry, your specialist will determine whether the growth requires surgical removal. Surgery is recommended for most healthy patients, but your doctor will determine the best treatment course based on your unique condition.