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Things to know about lump behind the ear

About possible causes and available treatments of lumps behind the ear

In this article, learn all there is to know about lumps behind the ear. If you'd like to find out more about your hearing health, please consult a hearing care professional at Amplifon. If you think your hearing ability has been impaired, you can take an online hearing test to check for hearing loss.

What are lumps behind the ear?

When small lumps surface behind the ears, they trigger swelling and can cause discomfort or itching. This area of the body is particularly delicate as it is made up of different structures such as skin, subcutaneous cell tissue, fatty tissue and mastoid bone. Depending on where the lump appears, we can rule out one condition or another. Lumps behind the ear can have many possible causes, below you can learn more about the most common causes.

Should you be concerned about lump behind the ear?

In most cases, lumps behind the ears are harmless. However, it is always best to get a proper diagnosis and visit a doctor for a physical examination and, if necessary, seek treatment. You should follow-up with your doctor when:

  • The lump is growing rapidly or is spreading
  • Lumps are irregularly shaped or lumps move around
  • Lumps that change in colour 
  • Lumps that produce discharge

Possible causes of a lump behind the ear

Why do I have lumps behind my ears? Swelling, bumps or lumps behind the ears can occur for several reasons.


Behind the ear there is not only skin, there is also the mastoid bone. A lump behind the ear can be a symptom of mastoiditis, especially when the swelling appears in children. This inflammatory condition triggers general malaise, ear discomfort, fever, secretions, headache and redness of the ear.

Mastoiditis can be caused by several factors. The most common is an infection of the middle ear, which can only be treated with antibiotics. If you feel a lump behind your ear, make sure to visit a doctor promptly to properly diagnose your condition and advise you on the best treatment.

Sebaceous cysts

Epidermal or sebaceous cysts are generally circular and elastic cysts that surface on the skin and often have a pimple in their central part. To distinguish these cysts from adenopathies, specialists examine it to see if the skin slides over the cyst. If this is not the case and the skin moves together with the cyst, it is called a sebaceous gland cyst.

The epidermal cyst can vary in size by several centimetres. Most often, these cysts cannot be treated topically as they do not respond to oral medications or creams and they can be treated surgically under the following circumstances:

  • The size of the cyst is very large.
  • It creates a deformity in the atrial lobe.
  • It is painful.
  • Bothersome in everyday life.
  • It is repeatedly swollen.

In many cases,these sebaceous cysts are asymptomatic and no intervention is needed; you just need to check them from time to time to see how they develop. They can change or decrease in size, but since they are encapsulated glands, they often grow back over time.

Swollen lymph nodes or lymphadenopathy

Lumps behind the ear can also be swollen lymph nodes, also known as adenopathies. People can check whether their lymph nodes are swollen by checking if:

  • They feel elastic.
  • They move around.
  • They are small, generally not exceeding one centimetre.
  • They can be painful.

Lymphadenopathy does not usually occur in isolation. If the lump is related to the ganglion, it is often accompanied by other same ones in the area. These lumps may be swollen as a result of an old infection that the patient either suffered in childhood or in their early years, causing them to become hypertrophic. Swollen lymph nodes on average measure about half a centimetre. However, if these swollen nodes are a result of an infection in the scalp, such as folliculitis or parasitism (lice on the scalp), they may reach more than 1 cm, be sensitive to the touch and appear red. Swollen lymph nodes are the signal that the body is fighting an infection. Once the infection disappears, so will the lymph nodes.

Lipoma behind the ear

It can be quite tricky to distinguish lipomas from an epidermal cyst as both can surface in any area where there is fatty tissue. People who suffer from this condition are most often between the ages of forty and sixty.

These fat pads are usually large and benign. They have no defined outline, they feel soft to the touch and can be easily moved when pressed. If they cause discomfort and pain, it is best to have them surgically removed. Lipomas an also be removed through liposuction using a large syringe and needle.


Acne bumps and bruises behind the ears may appear black, white or reddish and may surface on the face, neck or back, among other places. A condition triggered by the accumulation of excessive oil in the pores of the skin brought on by stress, hormonal changes and as a side effect to some medications. It is a relatively harmless condition that can become infected easily.

When seeking treatment for acne, it is important to see a dermatologist as they will assess your case and prescribe the most suitable treatment.

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Available treatments for lumps behind the ear

These types of bumps and bruises often come and go. However, there are some cases that require treatment with topical medication. The most important thing to pay attention to is the condition of the lump behind the ear. If you notice any of the previously changes mentioned or that the lump starts affecting your hearing, it is important that you go to the doctor to prevent it from getting worse.


Lumps require surgery when:

  • They are painful.
  • They are bothersome.
  • They are large or growing.
  • They swell.
  • They create deformities in the atrial lobe.

In most cases, lumps behind the ear do not trigger any of these symptoms, so surgeries are usually not necessary. However, it is best to keep a close eye on how these sebaceous glands are developing. From time to time, they may change in size, however, over time, they will grow back as encapsulated glands.

Can natural remedies help?

While in mild cases, natural remedies may help treat the condition, in severe cases, natural remedies will not solve the problem. When using natural remedies, it is best to keep in mind that they are designed to help the lump disappear faster but not get rid of it entirely by clearing the area and inhibit the proliferation of opportunistic bacteria and microbes. 

Natural remedy: aloe vera

This plant is known because of its antibacterial properties. It is believed to be an ally for the disappearance of a lump behind the ear. In fact, several studies indicate that several of its components (such as ethanol or methanol) have antimicrobial properties, so they can be useful to alleviate some bacterial diseases such as infections. By applying aloe vera to the area with the lump, the microbes that caused its appearance may no longer have the opportunity to spread.

Natural remedy: castor oil and dandelion

Castor oil is traditionally used in popular culture to treat wounds and pain. Recent studies have confirmed that this product has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which make it beneficial in reducing inflammation. Dandelion, on the other hand, is said to possess antibacterial properties, and if used in combination with castor oil it could help reduce the lump behind the ear.

Natural remedy: apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, a substance that can help fight infections and bacteria, thanks to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. However, it is important to remember that it is still an acid. So if you have sensitive skin or a wound, it may cause irritation. In this case, we recommend that you opt for another treatment.

How it works:

  • First, soak the cotton wool in apple cider vinegar.
  • Next, attach it to the bump behind the ear with the bandage or espadrille and leave it on for a while.
  • Remove the bandage after the specified time. You should find that a scab has formed which will fall off by itself in a few days. If not, repeat the procedure for as many days as necessary, but always pay attention to the condition of your skin to avoid irritation.
  • When the scab falls off, wash the area with mild soap or antiseptic.
  • Then apply another dressing, but without apple cider vinegar.
  • A few days later, the infection and lump should be gone.

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