Bumps inside the ear seem to appear overnight, causing discomfort and making it difficult to hear in some cases. Although an ear bump isn’t usually a sign of serious illness, some types of bumps can be cancerous. Your doctor can determine the proper course of treatment for your bump after identifying the type and cause of your growth.
Bumps can form at any point in the ear canal. Lumps or bumps may be soft or hard, depending on the type. Some bumps may be painful, while others may be painless, but can affect hearing if they block the ear canal.
Small Bumps Behind the Ears
Sebaceous cysts are harmless lumps comprised of skin oils and dead skin cells. These cysts are the most common type of cysts seen in the ear, according to MedlinePlus. Otitis externa, also called swimmer’s ear, is an infection of the ear canal that can cause swelling that may feel like a bump in the ear. Excess growth of bone in the ear canal causes non-cancerous osteomas and exostoses. Keloids, caused by overgrowth of scar tissue, can also cause bumps if you have had an injury to the ear canal. Ceruminoma, a cancerous tumor that develops in the outer part of the ear canal, forms when cancer develops in cells that make earwax. Two types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancer, can cause bumps on the outer part of the ear canal after years of sun exposure.
- Sebaceous cysts are harmless lumps comprised of skin oils and dead skin cells.
- Two types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancer, can cause bumps on the outer part of the ear canal after years of sun exposure.
You may find a bump in your ear after you notice an uncomfortable feeling or fullness in your ear. Sebaceous cysts may be painful, particularly if they are infected. If you notice a decrease in hearing in one ear, a large bump that blocks the ear canal may be to blame. Hearing loss can also occur if wax builds up around the bump. Otitis externa may be accompanied by itching, drainage, pain in the ear lobe and swollen glands in the neck, according to New York Presbyterian Hospital 2.
- You may find a bump in your ear after you notice an uncomfortable feeling or fullness in your ear.
- If you notice a decrease in hearing in one ear, a large bump that blocks the ear canal may be to blame.
White Bumps on the Top of My Ears
Sebaceous cysts often go away on their own and don’t require treatment. If the cyst is infected, painful or affects your hearing, your doctor may remove the cyst or treat it with an antibiotic. Osteomas, exostoses and keloids may be surgically removed if they grow too large, affect your hearing or cause ear infections. Corticosteroid ear drops will help decrease swelling caused by otitis externa, while antibiotics will help control the infection. Doctors treat ceruminoma, basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer with surgery and removal of surrounding tissue and radiation therapy.
- Sebaceous cysts often go away on their own and don’t require treatment.
- Osteomas, exostoses and keloids may be surgically removed if they grow too large, affect your hearing or cause ear infections.
Don’t ignore ear drainage from bumps or open sores on your ear. Drainage can be a sign of an infection, while an open sore on a bump may be a sign of cancer. If cancer is not treated until the advanced stage, doctors may need to remove a larger area of the external ear, according to the "Merck Manual."
- Don’t ignore ear drainage from bumps or open sores on your ear.
- If cancer is not treated until the advanced stage, doctors may need to remove a larger area of the external ear, according to the "Merck Manual.
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- Medline Plus: Benign Ear Cyst or Tumor
- New York Presbyterian Hospital: Otitis Externa
- "Merck Manual": Tumors
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Division of News and Electronic Media. Swimmer’s Ear Responsible for Nearly a Half Billion in Health Care Costs. CDC Online Newsroom. Published May 19, 2011.
- Hui CP. Acute otitis externa. Paediatr Child Health. 2013;18(2):96-101. doi:10.1093/pch/18.2.96
- American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Topical Therapy for Acute Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear). Patient Information - Frequently Asked Questions. (PDF). Published February 2014.
- P S, Baugh R. Acute Otitis Externa: An Update. American Family Physician. Published December 2012.
- Wang X, Winterstein AG, Li Y, Zhu Y, Antonelli PJ. Use of Systemic Antibiotics for Acute Otitis Externa: Impact of a Clinical Practice Guideline. Otol Neurotol. 2018;39(9):1088-1094. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000001955
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Which ear drops help in the treatment of outer ear infections? Updated November 2017.
- Aslam B, Wang W, Arshad MI, et al. Antibiotic resistance: a rundown of a global crisis. Infect Drug Resist. 2018;11:1645-1658. doi:10.2147/IDR.S173867
- Sjoukes A, Venekamp RP, van de Pol AC, et al. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, alone or combined, for pain relief in acute otitis media in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(Intervention). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011534.pub2
- Levi JR, Brody RM, Mckee-cole K, Pribitkin E, O'reilly R. Complementary and alternative medicine for pediatric otitis media. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2013;77(6):926-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2013.03.009
- Holmer N. Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Published 2015.
- Rosenfeld RM, Schwartz SR, Cannon CR, Roland PS, Simon GR, Kumar KA, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Acute otitis externa. 2014. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. doi: 10.1177/0194599813517083
Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.