Cholesteatoma: Symptoms and Causes | Tampa General Hospital


Cholesteatoma is an abnormal accumulation of skin in the middle ear behind the eardrum. 

A cholesteatoma is characterized by a growth of extra skin behind the eardrum. Although the condition can be congenital, in most cases cholesteatoma occurs as a result of chronic ear infections. 

What Causes Cholesteatomas? 

There are several reasons why cholesteatomas may begin to develop. One cause is the improper functioning of the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nose and sinuses. When the eustachian tube does not function as it should, it can result in pressure buildup in the ear and cause the eardrum to collect dead skin cells and wax. 
In rare cases, congenital cholesteatomas can also form during embryogenesis, specifically during the formation of the ears. 

What Symptoms Are Associated With Cholesteatomas? 

During the early stages in the formation of a cholesteatoma, a patient may experience drainage of fluid from the ear, which typically gives off a bad odor. As the cyst continues to grow, the patient may begin to notice more serious symptoms, such as: 

  • Dizziness A sensation th
  • at the ear feels full 
  • Muscle weakness in half of the face 
  • Pain in the ear 
  • Reoccurring infections in the ear 
  • Loss of hearing 
  • Ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus) 

How are Cholesteatomas Diagnosed? 

A cholesteatoma and can be identified and evaluated using any of the following diagnostic procedures: 

  • CT scan of the middle ear to identify the exact location of the cyst 
  • Audiogram to determine the patient’s level of hearing 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is performed when the brain is believed to be affected

How are Cholesteatomas Treated? 

The otolaryngologists, physicians and other medical professionals at Tampa General Hospital develop targeted treatment plans with each patient’s unique needs in mind. Depending on the severity of your cholesteatoma, we will recommend one of the following surgical procedures: 

  • Mastoidectomy – When the cholesteatoma has grown around the mastoid (the bone behind the ear), surgery is necessary to remove the diseased cells. 
  • Tympanoplasty – This surgery is intended to repair the eardrum and the small bones associated with hearing.