Cholesteatoma is a destructive and expanding growth that consist of skin cells in the wrong places of the middle ear and mastoid. If left untreated, it can eat into the three small bones that are located in the middle ear. Cholesteatoma can also affect and erode the thin bone structure that isolates the top of the ear from the brain, as well as lay the covering of the brain open to infections. Common symptoms include: hearing loss, discharge from the ear with a strong odor, bleeding from the ear, dizziness, vertigo, balance disruption, ear ache, headaches, and tinnitus.
Congenital cholesteatomas of the middle ear can be removed through the ear canal. The majority of cholesteatomas require that an incision be made behind the ear to expose the affected area adequately. These masses are not cancerous but must be removed to prevent the ear from being severely damaged.