Cholesteatomas, also called cholesterol granulomas, are cysts or small pockets that develop behind the eardrum in the middle ear. Some people are born with them. Others develop them after a chronic ear infection. Over time, the cysts can fill up with old skin cells and get infected. 


Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Discharge from one ear 
  • Hearing loss in one ear
If it’s not treated, a cholesteatoma will continue growing, eventually damaging tiny bones in the middle ear. It can cause loss of balance, loss of hearing in one ear and control of facial muscles. 


First, you’ll meet with your doctor for a physical exam. You’ll talk about your symptoms and your doctor may order tests such as:

  • A CT scan
  • Electronystagmography to study eye movements to see how well nerves in the brain are working

Services & Treatment

If surgery is needed to remove the cholesteatoma, options include:

  • A mastoidectomy is performed if the cholesteatoma has grown into the bone behind the ear, called the mastoid.
  • A tympanoplasty may be performed after the cholesteatoma is removed. Surgeons repair holes in the eardrum by grafting cartilage or the lining of the muscle behind the ear, called the fascia. 
After you’ve recovered, you might need to have your ear cleaned from time to time by one of our specialists. Our team of neurosurgeons and ear, nose and throat (ENT) experts will help you find the best way to protect your ear health for the future.

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