model of a human ear for medicine

You felt a small bump in your ear canal when you were cleaning your ears with a Q-tip (which, by the way, you should not be doing).  And now you’re wondering what it might be.  One of the possibilities (and there are others) is that the bump in your ear is an osteoma.  An osteoma of the external ear canal is a benign (harmless) bony tumor.

WHAT CAUSES OSTEOMAS?

The etiology or cause of osteomas is unknown. Osteomas are usually discovered during a routine ear examination.  They can also be discovered by someone poking around in their ear with a tool they should not be using.

COMPLICATIONS

Osteomas can grow so large that the ear canal becomes completely blocked resulting in a loss of hearing.  Other complications can include:

  • Infection of the tumor
  • Infection of the ear canal primarily from debris trapped by the osteoma
  • Wax trapped in the ear canal

TREATMENT GUIDELINES

The size of the osteoma will usually determine whether or not it might need to be removed.  If your hearing levels are impacted by the osteoma it may need to be surgically removed.  An osteoma can also interfere with the use of a hearing aid.  It may be necessary to have the osteoma removed if it is either blocking the flow of sound into the ear canal or because the size of the osteoma eliminates the insertion of a hearing aid or earmold into the ear canal.