This often underdiagnosed but serious condition is caused by a hole in the bone separating the brain from the ear. As a result, cerebrospinal fluid drains from the brain into the ear canal. Patients will complain of unexplained very clear and thin fluid in the ear, which is constantly leaking, or a funny taste in their throat because they are swallowing the fluid.
The hole can occur as the result of trauma, infection, a past surgical issue, or spontaneously. Obesity may also play a role; as the pressure inside the skull increases, and the brain begins to pulsate on the bone, it may eventually break and spring a leak. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is needed in order to avoid possible complications including meningitis or a brain abscess.
The location of the hole will determine the proper surgical treatment. In many cases a multispecialty team consisting of a neurosurgeon and an otologist-neurotologist will patch the hole both above and below the ear to stop the leakage.