Beware of Cholesteatoma, an Ear Disorder That Can Cause Deafness

Cholesteatoma is an uncontrolled growth of skin in the middle ear or behind the eardrum. You should not underestimate this tumor-like condition because it can cause hearing loss, even deafness if not treated properly.

Cholesteatoma is often experienced by people who suffer from recurrent middle ear infections. Meanwhile, in rare cases, this condition can be experienced from birth so it is considered a birth defect or congenital abnormality.

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Get to know the causes and symptoms of cholesteatoma

Cholesteatoma occurs due to interference with the eustachian tube, which is the connecting channel at the back of the nose and middle ear. This channel functions to equalize pressure inside and outside the ear, as well as removing fluid from the middle ear.

However, there are several conditions that can cause the function of the eustachian tube to be disrupted, namely:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Sinus infection or sinusitis
  • Chronic middle ear infection or otitis media

When the eustachian tube is disturbed, part of the eardrum will be pulled into the middle ear and form a sac or cyst which will develop into a cholesteatoma. This cholesteatoma will get bigger over time due to the accumulation of dead skin cells, fluid or dirt in the cyst.

If a cholesteatoma has formed, several symptoms may appear, such as:

  • Foul smelling fluid comes out
  • The ear feels pressured or full due to cyst growth
  • Pain inside or behind the ear
  • Decreased hearing function

If left untreated, cholesteatoma can trigger vertigo, mastoiditis, facial muscle paralysis, and even permanent hearing loss.

How to Treat Cholesteatoma

If the cholesteatoma is still relatively mild, the doctor will usually take action to clean the ear, then give ear drops and antibiotics. The goal is to remove or dry fluid that has settled in the ear and treat infections that occur.

If the enlargement of the cholesteatoma is severe, the only treatment is surgical removal of the cholesteatoma. This operation usually takes 2–3 hours.

In most cases, cholesteatoma surgery is an outpatient procedure. So, you don’t have to stay in the hospital after undergoing the procedure. New hospitalization is necessary if the cyst is very large or you have a serious infection.

There are two types of cholestetaoma surgery, namely:


As the name suggests, in this procedure, the surgeon will open the mastoid bone or the bone behind the ear. The goal is to remove the cyst completely.


Tympanoplasty is performed to repair damage to the eardrum or tympanic membrane. In this procedure, the surgeon will use cartilage or a layer called fascia from another part of the ear to fill the hole in the eardrum.

After surgery, some patients usually experience dizziness, mild earache, or a feeling of fullness in the ear. These side effects will go away on their own within a few days and hearing will usually improve 2-3 months after surgery.

How to Prevent Cholesteatoma

To reduce the risk of developing cholesteatoma, you are advised to maintain ear health and clean earwax in the correct way, namely:

  • Clean the outer ear with a damp cloth and avoid picking your ear with fingers, nails or an ear pick.
  • Use ear drops to soften lumps of wax so they can be removed easily.
  • Avoid using cotton buds to clean earwax because there is a risk of pushing the wax deeper into the ear canal.

If you often experience ear infections or feel symptoms of cholesteatoma, immediately consult a doctor so that treatment can be done to prevent it from growing bigger and causing serious complications.

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