Cholesteatomas are benign tumor-like growths formed by abnormal skin growth in the middle ear and/or mastoid area. Cholesteatomas grow slowly, but left untreated they are very destructive, and can cause serious complications such as hearing loss, dizziness, and serious infections. Most cholesteatomas are the result of unrecognized or untreated chronic eustachian tube dysfunction. Both children and adults can develop cholesteatomas. Symptoms may include foul-smelling ear drainage, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, hearing loss, ear pain, and/or dizziness. Initial treatment is aimed at controlling the infection and drainage, and evaluating the extent of the growth and damage to the ear. Surgery is almost always needed to remove the cholesteatoma and prevent further damage. Surgical treatment often includes more than one procedure. The goal of the initial surgery is to safely remove all of the cholesteatoma. Hearing preservation and reconstruction may be attempted in subsequent surgeries. Continued follow-up is necessary to evaluate results and to check for recurrence, which can occur with advanced or aggressive cholesteatomas.
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