The University of Arizona
Department of Surgery

Glomus Tympanicum Tumor

Glomus tympanicum tumors (also known as paragangliomas of the middle ear) are highly vascular, benign (non-cancerous) tumors that arise from paraganglia in the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss is common due to the tumor occupying space within the middle ear and preventing transmission of sound through the eardrum and ossicular (hearing bone) chain. Additionally, pulsatile tinnitus occurs frequently due to the vascular nature of these tumors. Very large glomus tympanicum tumors may cause vertigo (feeling that the world around you is spinning when you are not moving), facial paralysis and sensorineural hearing loss. Rarely, hormones may be manufactured by the tumor, which cause rapid heartbeat, headaches, flushing, excessive sweating and diarrhea. Smaller glomus tympanicum tumors may not produce any symptoms but can be found incidentally as reddish mass lesions under the eardrum.

Glomus tympanicum tumors are first detected/evaluated in the office by a thorough microscope (binocular) examination of the ear. Due to the highly vascular nature of the tumor, a reddish mass is typically observed behind the eardrum. Imaging studies, including CT scans, MRI scans and MR angiography (to get more information about the vascular properties of the tumor), are indicated. Three treatment options exist for glomus tympanicum tumors and recommendations are based on the individual properties of each tumor. Because these tumors are slow growing, observation using serial imaging is an option if the tumor is small and not causing troublesome symptoms. Surgical removal ranges from relatively simple transcanal approaches to much more complex mastoid and petrous operations depending on the size, location of the tumor and extent of other structures involved. In many cases, hearing and facial nerve function can be preserved with surgery. Lastly, radiation is an option that may halt the growth of the tumor by cutting off its blood supply, but the tumor is not removed.

Why Us? 
  • The University of Arizona’s Department of Surgery/Division of Otolaryngology has recruited top-tier, fellowship-trained faculty to Tucson, bringing subspecialty expertise to the Southwest.
  • U of A Otolaryngology faculty are experts in caring for common as well as complex ear, nose and throat diseases in children as well as adults.
  • Dr. Abraham Jacob, fellowship trained in Otology, Neurotology, and Cranial Base Surgery, is the first Neurotologist recruited to the Tucson area. 
  • With the only university-based Otology/Neurotology program in the state of Arizona, Dr. Jacob’s active laboratory and clinical research program ensures that patients are offered only the most up-to-date treatment options.
  • Glomus tumors require the special expertise of a Neurotologist/Lateral Cranial Base Surgeon. Having first completed a prestigious fellowship in Cranial Base Surgery with Dr. Bradley Welling at The Ohio State University and then having practiced exclusively as a Neurotologist for nearly 10 years, Dr. Jacob is uniquely qualified to surgically navigate the complex anatomy of the temporal bone. Interfacing with the Neurosurgeons for removal of extensive glomus tumors invading the intracranial space, Dr. Jacob’s skills have brought a new scope and breadth to the surgical services offered at The University of Arizona.

Patient Information