Cholesteatoma is a chronic ear disease in which skin cells become trapped under the eardrum or ear canal skin. Because skin cells constantly shed and replicate themselves, this can lead to an expanding “mass” when this skin is trapped in an enclosed space. This mass can lead to increasing problems as it grows, including recurring infection and drainage from the ear, hearing loss, and eventually permanent damage to the inner ear or balance system. An untreated cholesteatoma can even erode its way into the space around the brain and cause potentially life-threatening infections in this area.
When cholesteatoma is identified, additional testing will likely be ordered to determine the extent of disease. This typically includes an audiogram (hearing test) as well as a high resolution CT scan of the ears. Surgery is usually needed to eradicate the disease and repair the eardrum and other parts of the ear or hearing mechanism that may have been damaged by the disease. Larger cholesteatomas may require multiple surgeries to fully address the issue and restore hearing.