A Hard Lump Behind The Ear: Possible Causes

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: June 17, 2020
A Hard Lump Behind The Ear: Possible Causes

Having a hard lump behind the ear is quite common and there can be various causes for it. While some of the lumps are negligible, others may require immediate medical attention. If you have a lump behind your ear, you will need to find out its cause. Once you identify the cause, you can determine whether you may need to take action and get it treated medically. Even those which are not health risks might be a cosmetic issue for you. Before you move forward with a treatment option, you need to know about the possible causes of a hard lump behind the ear. Read this oneHOWTO article to find more details.

You may also be interested in: What Causes Fatty Lumps Under Skin
  1. Acne
  2. Lymphadenopathy
  3. Ear infection
  4. Mastoiditis
  5. Abscess
  6. Swelling in the Lymph Nodes
  7. Lipoma
  8. Sebaceous cyst
  9. Epidermoid Cyst
  10. Cancer
See more >>


If it is a small and painful lump, it could actually be just a pimple. Sometimes, a pimple may develop behind your earlobe near your ear on the soft part of skin. Since a pimple is caused due to blocked skin pores, it can normally cause swelling, infection and soreness in the area.

This is a mild symptom that will go away in time. However, in severe form, it can create a lump known as an acne cyst. If your lump is caused by acne, it will be accompanied by other pimples on your head and face as well.


You can accelerate the healing process by applying a drop of coconut oil behind your ear. Acne cyst is a bothersome condition which may eventually lead to unsightly scars and spots. A doctor may be helpful in managing it with an efficient treatment option. This could be anything from changing diet to a hormone cream, depending on severity.


Lymphadenopathy starts taking place in your lymph nodes. These are organ-like, tiny structures present throughout the body, including your ears, arms, neck and pelvis. Lymph nodes tend to swell from time to time, probably due to inflammation caused by infection. As the number of cells fighting against the infection grows, they start accumulating in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes may commonly swell due to inflammation and infection, but they can also be a sign of cancer.


Get your infection treated as soon as possible to remove inflammation from your lymph nodes and dissolve the lumps.

Ear infection

An infection in the ear may sometimes cause swelling in the neck and the area behind the ear. In addition to a hard lump behind the ear, it may feel like a knot and it can cause headache, ear pain, swelling and redness.

The condition can be prevented by treating any ear infection immediately. There are many other viral and bacterial infections that may cause lumps around the face and neck, such as infectious mononucleosis, strep throat, HIV/AIDS, measles, chickenpox etc.


Putting a warm compress over the ear can help in dissolving ear wax, thus helping to remove the infection and reducing inflammation. If left untreated, an ear infection can become worse and it may need prolonged medical treatment.


This condition happens when bacteria causing the infection enters the mastoid bone of your ear, making it inflamed and infected. Medical experts call it mastoiditis. The mastoid is the name for the bone behind your ear, which is conducive to infection due to its honeycomb like structure. Children are more likely to develop this condition as compared to adults. In addition to the lump, other symptoms of mastoiditis include ear discharge, loss of hearing, fever, irritability, headache and loss of balance (vertigo).


Antibiotics are generally used for killing the infection. Surgery may sometimes be required to drain the mucus if infection is severe.

A Hard Lump Behind The Ear: Possible Causes - Mastoiditis


If you have a painful lump behind your ear, its cause may likely be an abscess. An abscess forms when bacteria or any other foreign substance infects the tissue and your body’s immunity starts fighting against it. The white blood cells that the body sends to the infected area start accumulating in the location, causing the mucus to develop. Abscesses are usually filled with pus and often come with pain and swelling. You will also feel a little warmth behind your ear when you touch the area.


Small abscesses can be treated at home by making a warm compress with epsom salt and applying it in the area thrice a day. The warm compress will increase blood circulation in the area, and epsom salt will help in draining the mucus. Never squeeze or prick a mucus filled lump, it can exacerbate infection. Seek medical help if the lump continues to increase in size even after applying warm compresses.

Swelling in the Lymph Nodes

Sometimes, you notice a once pea-sized lump behind your ear eventually develops into a bigger nodule. Swollen lymph nodes could be the possible cause of this kind of lump. Your body’s immunity consists of lymphatic system, which comprises of lymph nodes in different body parts, including groin, armpits, collarbone and neck. In case of an infection, these lymph nodes get swollen and painful.


In order to get rid of such lumps, you need to get your infection treated.


Lipoma is a harmless lump that is not painful and usually appears behind the ear. It is fatty, it grows very slowly and does not spread. When you touch it, it feels soft like bread dough. Its diameter is usually less than 5cm, but it can become painful if it continues growing and starts pressing the nerves. Causes of lipomas are not identified, but they are thought to be inherited genetically.


Although a lipoma is not cancerous, it should be properly diagnosed and treated by a professional medical expert. If it is not causing concern, you can leave it untreated, but if it becomes painful, you will need to get it removed surgically.

Sebaceous cyst

Sebaceous cysts are harmless cysts which may appear behind your ear, in your earlobe or on your scalp. Epidermoid and sebaceous cysts are often confused with each other, but causes of both are different. A sebaceous cyst is formed when skin glands produce excess sebum to create it. It is filled with fluid and appears as dome-shaped, raised areas on the skin. Sometimes, they have one black spot on their top, known as punctum. These are not fixed and may be moved freely around under the skin when pressure is exerted on them.


If the cyst starts affecting your hearing or if it develops signs of infection, you need to seek medical help immediately.

Epidermoid Cyst

This is usually a round lump that you can feel under your skin. It is painless, but may become infected or inflamed. If this happens, it may feel tender to the touch. These kind of cysts form when epidermal cells start multiplying under your skin. Although a benign epidermoid cyst does not need any medical attention, it may need immediate treatment if it becomes infected. Never squeeze or prick a cyst, as it may spread the infection and become inflamed.


Applying a warm and moist cloth on the cyst can help in circulating the blood through it and encourage it to shrink.


Certain cancer types like lymphoma and leukemia may cause swelling in the lymph nodes behind your ear. You need to get serious if you have other symptoms as well, such as nasal blockage, stuffiness in the nose, recurrent ear infection, facial numbness and pain, difficulty opening the mouth, double or blurred vision, nosebleeds and headache.


So, get them checked if you suspect cancer or if your lump does not go away even after 2 weeks and comes with more severe symptoms.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to A Hard Lump Behind The Ear: Possible Causes, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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A Hard Lump Behind The Ear: Possible Causes