Cholesteatoma - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is a non-cancerous (benign) growth which develops in the middle ear or in the ‘petrous apex’ – a bone situated deep in the inner ear. This tumour can destroy health bone that includes the bones of the ears (ossicles) which can lead to permanent hearing loss. Cholesteatoma can occur as a result of a congenital disorder or an ear infection. In the case of a congenital disorder, skin cells become trapped inside the ear of a developing embryo which develops into a growth. A baby is born with this growth but remains unaware of this until a later stage in their life.

With an ear infection, both the ear drum and Eustachian tube can be blocked. This affects the balance of air pressure within the middle and inner ear which results in infection and dead skin cells around the ear drum being sucked back down the Eustachian tube. These form a growth which creates even more infection which then attacks and destroys healthy bone, for example the petrous apex. This can also happen if the ear has sustained a serious injury or trauma.

Symptoms of cholesteatoma

The first symptoms of anything wrong are earache, dizziness, and discharge from the ear, facial palsy and mild hearing loss. These symptoms are common to several other ear complaints and at first, may suggest an ear infection. But further investigation which involves referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist or ear specialist is required.

Treatment of cholesteatoma

If you notice these symptoms then visit your GP who will be able to diagnose this condition and then treat it accordingly. He/she will carry out an examination before prescribing antibiotics to clear the infection.

Your ear will be thoroughly cleaned to prevent further infection and the rest of your treatment will be carefully monitored by him/her.

Your ear will be examined again and then followed by referral to a specialist. The specialist will send you for x-rays and MRI/CT scans in order to determine the size and extent of the growth.

Treatment may involve surgery or radiotherapy depending on the size, location and extent of the growth. The danger here is if it left untreated then it can spread to the bones of the ear and even the base of the skull where it will damage healthy bone and cause permanent hearing loss.

But if it is caught at an early stage then the growth can be removed without damage to the ear canal which can restore your hearing to normal.

Hearing Loss

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