Osteomas affecting the Ear

Timothy C. Hain, MD • Page last modified: August 22, 2020


Osteomas are unusual, slow-growing neoplasms of bone. They can occur in any bone, but here we will only discuss those related to the ear.

(Sheehy 1982; Vrabec, Lambert et al. 2000; Barbosa, Santos et al. 2007)

External Ear Canal Osteomas (also see exostoses)

In our experience at Chicago Dizziness and Hearing, osteoma's of the external ear canal are common, generally asymptomatic growths found in persons who have a history of cold water swimming. This generally means persons who had a habit of swimming in the lake or ocean in their youth. Diagnosis is via direct observation (otoscopy).

Sheehy, J. L. (1982) reported on 100 cases of external osteomas of the external ear canal. He found that diffuse exostoses of the external auditory canal are common bilaterally symmetrical hyperostoses of the tympanic bone, seen predominantly in men who are ocean swimmers. Surgical correction of the bony stenosis is indicated only if the lesion is symptomatic.

Middle ear osteomas.

Our experience has been that these are rare lesions. Perhaps they are underdiagnosed as these lesions can only be seen with a temporal bone CT scan or during surgery. There have been many reports of these lesions, of which Barbosa, V. C., M. A. Santos, et al. (2007) is an example.

Internal auditory canal osteoma

We have never encountered an IAC osteoma. Vrabec, J. T., P. R. Lambert, et al. (2000) presented 3 cases and suggested that these are uncommon and usually unimportant incidental findings.

Temporal bone osteomas

Viswanatha recently reviewed osteomas of the temporal bone -- mainly the mastoid. These are rare, benign and generally incidental (Viswantha, 2008).