Benign ear cysts are noncancerous lumps or growths in the ear.
Osteomas; Exostoses; Tumor - ear; Cysts - ear; Ear cysts; Ear tumors
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Sebaceous cysts are the most common type of cysts seen in the ear. They are bulging, sac-like collections of dead skin cells and oils produced by oil glands in the skin.
They commonly occur:
- Behind the ear
- In the ear canal
- In the earlobe
- On the scalp
The exact cause is unknown, but cysts may occur when oils are produced in a skin gland faster than they can be released from the gland.
Benign bony tumors of the ear canal (exostoses and osteomas) may be caused by excess growth of bone. Repeated exposure to cold water may increase the risk of benign tumors of the ear canal.
The symptoms of cysts include:
- Pain (if cysts are in the outside ear canal or get infected)
- Small soft skin lumps on, behind, or in front of the ear
The symptoms of benign tumors include:
- Ear discomfort
- Gradual hearing loss in one ear
Note: There may be no symptoms.
Signs and tests
Benign cysts and tumors are usually discovered during a routine ear examination, which can include hearing tests (audiometry) and middle ear testing (tympanometry). When looking into the ear, the doctor may see cysts or benign tumors in the ear canal.
Sometimes a CT scan is needed.
This disease may also affect the results of the following tests:
- Caloric stimulation
If the cyst or tumor is not painful and does not interfere with hearing, treatment is not necessary.
If a cyst becomes painful, it may be infected. Treatment may include antibiotics or removal of the cyst.
Benign bony tumors may progressively increase in size. If a benign tumor is painful, interferes with hearing, or leads to frequent ear infections, surgery to remove the tumor may be necessary.
Benign ear cysts and tumors are usually slow-growing and may disappear on their own.
- Hearing loss if the tumor is large
- Infection of the cysts
- Infection of the ear canal
- Wax trapped in the ear canal
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have:
- Symptoms of a benign ear cyst or tumor
- Discomfort, pain, or hearing loss
O’Handley JG, Tobin E, Tagge B. Otorhinolaryngology. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 25.
Nicolai P, Castelnuovo P. Benign tumors of the sinonasal tract. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 49.
Warren FM III, Shelton C, Wiggins RH III. Neuroradiology of the temporal bone and skull base. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 135.