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Benign Ear Growth

Alternate Names

  • benign ear cyst
  • Benign ear cyst or tumor

Definition

A benign ear growth is any abnormal growth on the ear that is not cancer. It can be caused by many different conditions.

What is going on in the body?

The most common type of benign ear growth is a cyst. A cyst is a closed sac that can be filled with fluid or tissue. Cysts often form in the space behind the eardrum.
Benign ear tumors can grow out of the tissues that form the ear. A benign tumor is not cancerous.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some cysts may be due to inherited problems. Problems with the ear drainage tubes, chronic ear infections, or other ear inflammation can also cause cysts to develop. The cause for most benign ear tumors is not known.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

If the cause is genetic, there is no way to prevent benign ear cysts. Those who have problems with ear drainage tubes may need surgery to improve or bypass the tube. Surgery to remove an overgrowth of tissue in the upper part of the throat may help in some cases. Treating allergies, ear infection (otitis), and chronic sinus infections may also help prevent cysts. An ear tube, or artificial tube to equalize pressure, may need to be inserted into the ear.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

Benign ear tumors or cysts in the ear canal or middle ear can be seen during examination. A biopsy, the surgical removal of a piece of tissue for analysis, may be needed. Hearing tests can help find any hearing loss that is present. A special X-ray test may be needed if surgery is planned.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Long-term effects of a benign ear growth may be minimal. If the ear growth is not treated, it may result in a permanent hearing impairment. There can also be frequent ear infections of the ear canal, known as chronic otitis externa. Cysts may also cause chronic middle ear infections, or chronic otitis media, and hearing or other nerve impairments.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Benign ear growths are not contagious and pose no risks to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

A benign ear tumor with no symptoms needs to be re-examined periodically. Surgery may be needed if there is hearing impairment or chronic otitis externa. Treatment for some ear cysts requires surgery. If they are small, they can be removed through the ear canal. If they are large, the base of the skull must be opened. Some cysts may return after surgery. Sometimes additional reconstructive surgery is needed.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. Other possible side effects include hearing impairments, perforation of the eardrum, vertigo, or damage to the facial nerve.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Antibiotic and corticosteroid ear drops are often used to help the skin in the ear canal heal. If benign tumors are removed from the eardrum or the middle ear space, the ear canal is packed with materials and ointments. Repeat visits to the surgeon to remove the material and check on healing may be needed.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

After a benign ear growth is removed, no further treatment is necessary in most cases. Hearing tests two to three months after the operation can detect hearing impairment. The person's healthcare professional may also check periodically to see if another growth has developed.
Those with certain types of cysts need to be followed closely, because the cysts can return. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional at once.

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