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.
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.
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.
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.
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."