May 28, 2012 by Dr Yanick Larivée

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The human ear is susceptible to a thousand and one problems: ear infections are common among children while the elderly often experience presbycusis (age-related hearing loss). Cholesteatoma, on the other hand, is a disease marked by cysts on the eardrum and in the middle ear.

Cholesteatoma is a type of chronic ear infection or long-term inflammation of the eardrum or middle ear. It consists of a cyst or retraction pocket on the eardrum. Cholesteatoma is sometimes congenital, but most often it results from chronic tympanic membrane retraction or a perforated eardrum. Cholesteatoma is more frequent among children under 15, but it can occur at any age and usually appears in only one ear.

Patients with cholesteatoma may experience hearing loss or ear discharge, but symptoms are sometimes very mild.

An ENT can perform a microscopy exam to diagnose problems of the eardrum and the middle ear, including cholesteatoma. A computed tomo-graphy (CT) scan of the ear is also often useful.

Cholesteatoma must be surgically treated by an ENT specialist. The condition often requires long-term monitoring. It should be treated quickly to avoid certain complications such as infections (mastoiditis, meningitis), permanent deafness, dizziness or facial paralysis.

If you are experiencing prolonged ear discharge, do not hesitate to consult an ENT doctor.