Frequently asked questions

How common is cholesteatoma?

1 in 10,000 people suffer with cholesteatoma

What will happen if I leave my cholesteatoma alone?

If left untreated the cholesteatoma will continue to grow and may damage surrounding structures such as the bones of hearing, the balance organ, the nerves of taste and facial movement on that side of the face. Additionally, there is a small but serious risk that it can grow towards the brain and cause complications such as meningitis or seizures.

What is a cholesteatoma?

The ear drum is constantly renewing itself and shedding old dead skin, which becomes wax. A nice, straight and flat ear drum is important in allowing the dead skin to fall off the drum and be carried away through the ear canal.

When the pressure behind the ear drum, in the middle ear space, is not well controlled, the ear drum can become sucked into the middle ear. This distorts the shape of the ear drum and dead skin can no longer fall away from the drum easily. As this dead skin accumulates, stuck to the drum, it begins to expand or grow. This growing sac of dead ear drum skin is termed a cholesteatoma (pronounced ko-lee-stee-a-toma).

Is there a treatment for cholesteatoma?

The only successful treatment for this condition is surgery (combined approach tympanoplasty). It frequently takes more than one operation to clear it completely and restore some function to the affected ear.