Ear Infection or Cholesteatoma?


Many people suffer from the occasional ear infection caused by a cold or allergies. However, when your symptoms go beyond those normally associated with minor ear infections, you may suffer from a cholesteatoma. Learn what a cholesteatoma is and how it is treated in most patients today.

What is a Cholesteatoma?

A cholesteatoma is a growth in the middle ear that is located behind the ear drum and over the mastoid bone. It is non-cancerous and typically starts out as a small cyst. As time progresses, it grows larger and begins to inflict symptoms that can negatively impact your health.

A cholesteatoma is caused by a malfunction of the Eustachian tube. When this tube does not work as designed, you may develop a cholesteatoma because air cannot escape the middle ear. This condition most often appears in people who suffer from chronic colds and allergies.

Cholesteatoma Symptoms

The primary symptom of a cholesteatoma is a foul smelling discharge from the middle ear. However, other symptoms can include:

  • Middle ear pain
  • Loss of hearing
  • Facial paralysis
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus

If you experience any of these symptoms, you are advised to visit with an ears, nose, and throat doctor to determine if you suffer from a cholesteatoma in the middle ear.

Treatment of a Cholesteatoma

Depending on the severity of the cholesteatoma, yours may be treated in one of several different ways. Your doctor will first verify its existence using a CT scan. If it is minor and does not cause significant pain or vertigo, it may be treated with antibiotics or antiseptic cleaning solution. Your doctor may simply clean out your ear and then prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection that is causing it.

However, if it is large and causing extreme pain, vertigo, hearing loss, and discharge, it may need to be surgically removed. Your ENT doctor will lance and drain it and then possibly reconstruct the middle ear and ear drum. This reconstruction may prevent future cholesteatomas from developing.

A cholesteatoma can be more than an inconvenient illness of the middle ear. It can disrupt your normal life and cause severe side effects like facial paralysis and hearing loss. However, it may also be easily remedied with antibiotics, thorough cleaning of the outer and middle ear, and surgical lancing.