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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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July 2002

Q. I am 68 years old and have had several surgeries on both ears since I was 27 years old. I have a condition called cholesteotoma. I've had prolonged exposure to jet engine noise through work. I come from a family of twelve and no one in the family has ever had it or worked around jet engines except me. Have there been any studies conducted relating the disease to prolonged exposure to loud noise?

A. Cholesteotoma is a growth occurring in the middle ear, the space behind the eardrum. It is thought to occur most commonly from repeated middle ear infections which cause a pressure build up and results in cells being pulled away from the eardrum. These cells are then walled off by the body's immune system forming a sac or cyst behind the eardrum. While not a cancer, the growth is dangerous as it can continue to grow, causing hearing loss, damage to facial nerves, and possible life-threatening infections.

Treatment is surgical removal to avoid these complications. I have not seen references to noise exposure as a cause.



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