Cholesteatoma is a skin cyst that grows in the middle ear behind the eardrum. If left untreated, it can grow large enough to destroy surrounding bone, including the mastoid, resulting in hearing loss.

Causes & Symptoms

Cholesteatoma is usually the result of negative pressure in the ear caused by a poorly functioning Eustachian tube. This organ is responsible for equalizing air pressure by moving air from the back of the nose into the middle ear. When a cold, allergy or sinus infection occurs, this air is absorbed by the body, creating a partial vacuum that pulls and stretches the eardrum, causing a pouch or cyst to form. The pouch fills up with layers of old skin and, as it grows larger, destroys the surrounding bones. Frequent ear infections contribute to the formation of cholesteatomas by weakening the inner ear and causing skin to shed more easily.

Symptoms include dizziness, earache, hearing loss, drainage from the ear, and a feeling of fullness. These are commonly associated with other conditions, so thorough testing – including CT scan and electronystagmography – are needed for a proper diagnose. It’s important to catch a cholesteatoma early because, if allowed to grow unchecked, it can lead to serious complications such as deafness, facial paralysis, and meningitis.

Treating Cholesteatoma

Treatment for cholesteatoma depends on the size and rate of growth. The initial step involves treatment with antibiotics or eardrops. In most cases, surgery is needed to remove the cyst. Follow-up procedures may be needed in order to make sure the cholesteatoma is gone and to reconstruct middle ear bones that have been damaged, if necessary.