What is an Ear Mass?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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An ear mass is a lump, which may be in the internal or external ear. Ear masses can be caused by a wide variety of medical conditions, ranging from benign cysts of the ear to neuromas, tumors which grow on the facial nerve and sometimes invade the ear. Treatment is usually supervised by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician, and may also involve an oncologist and other medical specialists, depending on the nature of the mass.

Masses on the external ear are commonly visible and may be palpable. For example, if someone develops a cyst in the earlobe as a result of infection, it can be seen and felt easily. Masses inside the ear can usually only be seen with special equipment. Someone with an ear mass may experience symptoms like one-sided tinnitus, hearing impairment in one ear only, dizziness, and a feeling of itching or irritation in the ear. The mass may also produce a strong smelling discharge.

One common form of ear tumor is an exostosis or osteoma. These tumors consist of new bone that grows over existing bone, commonly in response to stress, such as frequent exposure to cold water. This type of ear mass can be treated surgically. It is also possible to develop polyps or cysts inside the ear, some of which may be benign in nature. An ENT can examine the ear, take a sample for biopsy to determine what is causing it, and make treatment recommendations.


Some more unusual types of ear masses include paragangliomas, a type of growth that were once known as glomus tumors, and cholesteatomas. Cholesteatomas, which are destructive growths, can erode the bone inside the ear if they are left untreated, and can be fatal. Fortunately, these malignant masses are usually identified early, allowing a physician to take prompt action to remove the growth before it has a chance to cause damage to the ear.

The ear is close to the brain, and a mass in the ear can be a cause for concern; if malignant, such growths may be able to eventually reach the brain. For this reason, it is important to seek treatment for any symptoms or masses which are noticed, and to follow through on diagnostic recommendations so that the nature of the mass can be determined. Once the mass has been thoroughly investigated, the physician will be able to make recommendations about how to proceed with treatment.


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Post 2

@KoiwiGal - If your aunt has always been eccentric you don't really have a lot of options.

But, if she has only begun acting that way since the tumor or growth appeared you might need to consider medical help, because it's possible the tumor itself is affecting her brain. As it says in the article, the ear is close enough to the brain that growths can easily affect it if left untreated.

That's a difficult one to do anything about though, because it would be hard to prove that her decision making ability was being affected without having her examined first. If she won't consent to an exam, I'm not sure what kinds of options are available to you.

You might want to look at the legal aspects though, just in case you have options you didn't know about.

Post 1

My aunt has a large growth near her ear. Our family has a history of cancer, so we all immediately jumped to that conclusion.

Unfortunately she is eccentric and refuses to see doctors of any kind. She won't even go to the optometrist to have her eyes checked and has been wearing the same glasses for decades now.

But, she's had this growth for years and years and although she is hardly in the best of health, she's still able to walk around and so forth.

Her hearing isn't the best, but I think the growth has actually blocked her ear canal.

We've tried everything to get her to go, but honestly at this point there's nothing we can do.

It's a hard thing, but short of knocking her on the head and delivering her to a hospital (and don't think we didn't consider that) there's nothing else to do.

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