A cholesteatoma is a type of cyst found in the middle ear behind the eardrum. It is a noncancerous tumor.
Regions of the Ear
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A cholesteatoma forms when the skin grows through the hole in the middle of the ear. It can occur due to a damaged eardrum or a defect at birth.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of a cholesteatoma include:
  • Chronic ear infections
  • A poorly functioning eustachian tube
  • Down syndrome
  • Turner syndrome
  • Cleft palate
  • Abnormalities of the bones of the skull and face
  • A family history of chronic middle ear disease or cholesteatoma


Symptoms include:
  • Hearing loss
  • Discharge from the ear, sometimes foul-smelling
  • Pressure in the ear
  • Earache
  • Numbness of the ear
  • A sensation of spinning when you are not moving—vertigo
  • Muscle weakness in the face on the affected side


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is usually made based on visual symptoms.Images may be taken of your middle ear and surrounding structures. This can be done with:Your nerve function may be tested. This can be done with:
  • Hearing tests and balance tests
  • Electronystagmography
  • Caloric stimulation

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