Ear & Hearing

About Tumours of the Ear

Tumours of the ear are not common. This topic covers a very broad range of growths that occur in different parts of the ear from the auricle (the 3-dimensional structure that protrudes from the head) to the inner ear and its connection to the brain.

The symptoms are as varied as the part of the ear affected. While tumours of the auricle are readily visible, those that are in the ear canal or middle ear may cause ear blockage, ear discharge, pain, decrease in hearing or tinnitus.

Examples of tumours of the ear include:

  • Cancers of the auricle or ear canal
  • Polyp of the external or middle ear (benign)
  • Osteoma (benign tumour) of the ear canal
  • Glomus tumour of the middle ear (glomus tympanicum)
  • Endolymphatic sac tumour of the inner ear
  • Vestibular schwannoma of the internal acoustic meatus (inner ear canal)
  • Glomus tumours of the skull base e.g glomus jugulare

There is great variation in the behaviour of different types of tumours. In general, benign tumours are slow growing and their effects are mainly functional. However, depending on the location, even histologically benign tumours may have serious effects because of the surrounding structures they may affect, especially the brain and the nerves and blood vessels of the skull base.

A comprehensive clinical evaluation including otomicroscopy, hearing tests, and a complete head & neck examination will help your doctor determine if additional CT or MRI scan of the ear is required. A biopsy may be recommended to help ascertain the diagnosis and facilitate treatment planning.