ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

Cholesteatoma: Hard to Pronounce, Hard on the Ears

Doctors use medical terms that can often confuse their patients until these are explained in layman’s terms. This is the case with cholesteatoma, which we will explain in the following sections.


Abnormal Skin Growth

Cholesteatoma refers to the abnormal skin growth occurring in the middle ear behind the eardrum. Unlike many types of skin growth, it doesn’t just pop up, so to speak, because it’s usually the result of repeated infections.


When the middle ear experiences repeated infections, it gradually develops an ingrowth in the skin surrounding the eardrum. Such ingrowth can either be a cyst (i.e., benign growth) or a pouch, which has layers of old skin being shed. Over time, the abnormal growth increases in size until such time that it can destroy the middle ear’s delicate bones.


Range of Symptoms

Cholesteatoma may be hard to pronounce but its symptoms are even harder to deal with, especially in the late stages. Your symptoms will vary depending on the stage of your abnormal skin growth but each one deserves attention. You have to see your ENT doctor as soon as possible if you have these symptoms:


  • Hearing loss
  • Feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear
  • Persistent earache
  • Dizziness
  • Drainages in the ear, sometimes accompanied by a foul odor
  • Facial muscle paralysis on the side of the affected ear in the later stages although rare in occurrence


Indeed, if you have these symptoms, you should never ignore them since these are cause for concern. Your ENT doctor will have the necessary knowledge and skills that contribute to a definitive diagnosis, whether it’s cholesteatoma or not.


When left untreated, cholesteatoma can cause infections in the surrounding areas, such as the inner ear and even the brain. This can, in turn, result in partial to total deafness, meningitis, and brain abscess while death can occur in rare cases.


Wholistic Treatment Plan

Your ENT doctor will determine the best treatment plan depending on the severity of your case, among other factors. Your initial treatment will likely involve a wholistic combination of professional ear cleaning, eardrops, and antibiotics. You may also be recommended for therapy to stop the drainage and, thus, control the infection.


But a large cholesteatoma or a cholesteatoma with a complicated nature will likely require surgery to remove it.  There may be two types of surgery – first, the removal of the skin growth so that the infection can be removed and a dry ear can be created; and second, the reconstruction of the middle ear bones, usually to improve the sense of hearing.  Your ENT doctor will discuss whether you are eligible for either or both of these surgical procedures.


For more details of your ear diseases or hearing problems, please contact HK ENT Specialist.



HK ENT Specialist offer ear services as below:

Ear (Otology)

Neonatal hearing screening

Paediatric and adult hearing test

Hearing restoration treatments including cochlear implant surgery, bone anchored hearing aid surgery

Stapedectomy and ossiculoplasty

A comprehensive range of micro ear surgery, etc.


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