Diseases & Conditions

Benign Ear Cyst - Benign Ear Growth

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

A benign ear growth is any abnormal growth on the ear that does not indicate cancer. It can be caused by many different conditions.

What is going on in the body?

The most common type of benign ear growth is a cyst. A cyst is a closed sac that can be filled with matter. Cysts often form in the space behind the eardrum.

Benign ear tumors are another cause of a benign ear growth. These tumors come from the tissues that form the ear. A benign tumor is not cancer.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

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.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

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. If the growth presses on the inner ear, the person may have a loss of balance, as well as vertigo. Vertigo gives a person the feeling that the room is spinning around. This feeling is worsened when the person turns or moves suddenly.

Diagnosis & Tests

How is the condition diagnosed?

Benign ear tumors or cysts in the ear canal or middle ear can be seen during examination. A biopsy may be needed. A biopsy is the surgical removal of a piece of tissue for analysis. Hearing tests can help find any hearing loss that is present. A special X-ray test may be needed if surgery is planned.

Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the condition?

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 infections or 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.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

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 impairments.

What are the risks to others?

Benign ear growths are not contagious and pose no risks to others.

Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

A benign ear tumor with no symptoms needs to be watched. 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. The eardrum is lifted and the cyst is removed. Some cysts may return after surgery. Sometimes additional reconstructive surgery is needed.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Surgery may cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia. Other possible side effects include hearing impairments, perforation of the eardrum, vertigo, or damage to a facial nerve.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

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.

How is the condition monitored?

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 provider may also check periodically to see if another growth has developed.

Those with certain types of cysts need to be followed closely, because the problem can return. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider at once.


Author:Mark Loury, MD
Date Written:
Editor:Ballenberg, Sally, BS
Edit Date:03/30/01
Reviewer:Nicholas J. Rowley, MD
Date Reviewed:08/06/01