Lump behind ear

A lump behind the ear can appear for a number of reasons. They can be either small or large in size and be painful or totally painless when touched. It’s important to know what the causes of a lump behind ear are as some conditions are minor enough to go away on their own while others may require professional medical treatment. If you have had a lump behind ear for more than 4 weeks then we recommend you seek the advice of a doctor. Timely detection is important in treating and preventing serious complications from arising so if you feel that your condition is quite serious, do not hesitate to seek help.

Lump behind ear

Example of lump behind ear

Common causes

Swollen lymph nodes

A lump behind ear is most common the result of a swollen lymph node. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system and they aid the body in fighting infections and removing cell waste. We have a number of lymph nodes at certain parts in our body, including our head and neck. When we get an infection, it is common for the lymph node to swell, thus causing a lump. If the lump is soft or tender to touch, the swelling usually goes away in a couple of days. But if they are hard, firm and growing in size it may be a sign of cancer. For this reason, if you have a lump behind ear it is required that you take a medical examination, especially if the lump has not subsided in a couple of days.

Antiviral medication, pain relievers and antibiotics can help treat a swollen lymph node.


Mastoiditis is a condition when an ear infection causes an infection in the mastoid bone. The mastoid bone is located directly behind the ear. Swelling and skin protruding is common. Other symptoms that accompany mastoiditis are fever, ear pain, redness and hearing loss.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts can occur due to inflammation of the skin due to ingrown hair follicles or a skin wound. The cyst contains a foul smelling protein called keratin which is produced by the skin. Cysts are associated with acne and problematic skin so sebaceous cysts by themselves are not dangerous and disappear after a while. However if a sebaceous cyst becomes infected, it can become and abscess. Abscesses cause inflammation and are often associated with increased pain when touched because they contain pus. Medical treatment is required, often in the form of surgical draining.

Serious causes

Most cases of lump behind ear are due to common causes. However it is not excluded that a lump behind ear is due to a more serious cause. The most dangerous one is ear cancer. Symptoms of head and neck cancer are lumps behind ear, prolonged sore throat, difficulty when swallowing and hoarse voice. Cases of salivary gland cancer can also cause swelling behind the ears. This condition is called metastatic squamous neck cancer and can be detected with a physical examination.

As with all forms of cancer, early detection is a prerogative in successfully treating it.


Treating a lump behind ear depends on the severity of the lump. Mild lumps like a sebaceous cyst can be treated with acne medication or home remedies like tea tree oil. Take a cotton swab, dab it in tea tree oil and apply it to the cyst are for 5 minutes or more. Wash up with an oil free soap afterwards. This will dry up the fluids in the cyst and the swelling will subside naturally.

Swollen lymph glands can be treated with pain relieving medication like Nurofen Plus. For a home remedy, try gargling salt water or turmeric.

Mastoiditis can be treated by pouring drops of warm Mullein oil in the infected ear. Garlic oil is another home remedy associated with treating ear aches from various infections. This can be made by mixing olive oil with two peeled cloves of garlic, boiling for 10 minutes and then straining the resulting solution. One or two drops in the infected ear can provide easy and quick pain relief.

If the symptom persists for more than a few days and the lump is painful to touch, you should have a medical examination to determine the cause for the lump behind ear. While in most cases the lump subsides with no medication if left untreated it can lead to more severe, long term complications.