Treating Inner and Outer Ear Cysts

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Noncancerous (benign) ear cysts can develop in various parts of the ear, including the outer ear. Some cysts can cause discomfort, hearing loss, and other complications if left untreated.

Treatment options for ear cysts vary depending on their location, size, and symptoms. This article will explore how to tell if you have an ear cyst, safe ear cyst removal, and signs that you need to see your healthcare provider.

Man with ear ache

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How to Tell If You Have an Ear Cyst

Ear cysts are growths that can be found in different parts of the ear, including:

The most common type of ear cyst is called a sebaceous cyst, which occurs when sebaceous glands—tiny glands that secrete an oily substance called sebum—fill with dead skin cells and oil. These cysts appear as slow-growing bumps underneath the skin.

The exact reason why sebaceous ear cysts occur is unknown, but they can happen when oils are produced in a skin gland faster than they can be released or if the opening of the oil gland becomes blocked and a cyst forms under the skin.

Another common type of cyst that can form on the ear is called an epidermoid cyst. These are small, painless, and benign lumps that form when the surface skin folds in on itself. The cyst consists of dead skin cells filled with white, cheesy-appearing debris.

The most common ear cyst symptoms are:

  • Small soft skin lumps on the inner and outer ear
  • Pain or discomfort (usually if infected or in the outside ear canal)

Pimples in the ear may resemble an ear cyst. Pimples arise due to the buildup of sweat, body oil, and dead skin cells that clog hair follicles. Like ear cysts, they can be painful and infected and may require treatment from your healthcare provider.

Benign bony tumors of the ear canal may also resemble an ear cyst. However, these are caused by an excess growth of bone and cause symptoms such as ear discomfort, gradual hearing loss in the affected ear, and recurring ear infections.

Ear piercings may produce a bump that resembles an ear cyst. However, these bumps usually result from the trauma of the piercing and often resolve on their own. Other ear-piercing complications resembling an ear cyst include embedded earrings, keloids and hypertrophic scarring, and infections.

People experiencing any symptoms of an ear cyst should see their primary care provider or an otolaryngologist, also called an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician.

Should You Pop an Ear Cyst?

Do not pop an ear cyst because that can lead to an infection and increase the risk of scarring.

Most cysts are not dangerous and do not require treatment unless they cause symptoms.

However, if your cyst becomes inflamed, swollen, or infected, or if you have hearing loss or other symptoms, see your healthcare provider for recommended treatment.

Safe Ear Cyst Removal and Treatment

In many cases, treatment for ear cysts is unnecessary if the cyst does not cause pain, affect hearing, cause ear infections, or lead to any other uncomfortable symptoms.

If the cyst is painful, infected, or causing other symptoms, common treatments include:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Removing the cyst

A healthcare provider usually removes an ear cyst under local anesthesia in their office. If the cyst grows back, you may require a repeat procedure.

Your healthcare provider will likely monitor your ear to check for a recurrence of cholesteatoma (an abnormal collection of skin cells deep inside the ear).

Signs of an Ear Cyst Getting Worse

Sometimes, ear cysts get smaller over time or may resolve on their own.

However, if you have any symptoms of a benign ear cyst or a related condition, you should contact your healthcare provider right away. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drainage for the ear
  • Hearing loss in one ear
  • Ear fullness or the sensation of pressure in the ear
  • Repeated ear infections
  • Ear discomfort

Some types of ear cysts are common and usually are not a cause for concern. Contact your healthcare provider if pain persists and symptoms do not improve.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Medline Plus. Cholesteatoma.

  2. Medline Plus. Benign ear cyst or tumor.

  3. Medline Plus. Epidermoid cyst.

  4. Kim MM, Goldman RD. Ear-piercing complications in children and adolescentsCanadian Family Physician. 2022;68(9):661-663.  doi: 10.46747/cfp.6809661

  5. Penn Medicine. Cholesteatoma.

By Sarah Jividen, RN
Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a freelance healthcare journalist and content marketing writer at Health Writing Solutions, LLC. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.