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Cholesteatoma is an abnormal cyst filled with shed skin. There are two types of cholesteatoma:

  • Congenital cholesteatoma results from skin remnants that fail to migrate from the middle ear to the outer ear during development of the fetus. This condition appears in children as an asymptomatic white mass behind the ear drum (tympanic membrane).
  • Acquired cholesteatoma results from untreated ear fluid (middle ear effusion), recurrent ear infections or an untreated hole in the ear drum. Shed dead skin in the middle of a cholesteatoma cyst often becomes chronically infected and if untreated can be very destructive to the bone of the ear.

Cholesteatoma can cause hearing loss, dizziness and, rarely, a weakness of the muscles of the face. It can also present as a chronic infection of the ear. The size of a cholesteatoma is usually determined through computed tomography (CT). Cholesteatoma is treated surgically in the majority of cases.

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