A benign ear growth is any abnormal growth on the ear that is not cancer. It can be caused by many different conditions.
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.
A benign ear growth may cause no symptoms at all. The most common symptom is a gradual decline in hearing, or hearing impairment. A person may also have drainage of infected material from the ear occasionally. Pressure on a nerve supplying the face may result in a loss of the sense of taste or decreased facial movement.
If the growth presses on the inner ear, the person may have a loss of balance, or vertigo. Vertigo gives a person the feeling that the room is spinning around. This feeling is worsened when the person turns or moves suddenly.
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.
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.
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 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.
Benign ear growths are not contagious and pose no risks to others.
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.
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.
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.
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.