Introduction The etiopathogenesis of chronic otitis media epitympanalis/cholesteatoma and its proliferative destructive course with possible complications such as destruction of bony structures with hearing loss, vestibular dysfunction, facial nerve paralysis and intracranial complications are still unexplained. Surgery is still the way to go. New studies are increasingly looking at the innate immune system. Methods Our studies were carried out in a mouse model in WT mice and immundeficient KO-mice, as well as in cholestatoma and healthy ear canal skin and middle ear tissue, which was removed during ear surgery. The expression analyses were carried out at the gene and protein level using TNF as the major target for therapy evaluation. By means of TUNEL staining and immunohistochemistry the level of apoptosis was evaluated. Results The uncontrolled undirected cholesteatoma growth shows an immunomodulatory profile with up and down-regulation of various gene networks, especially those involved in TNF downstream and upstream signaling pathways. TNF in cholesteatoma is modulated both inflammatorily and apoptotically and therefore is suitable as a possible therapeutic approach in various models. Conclusions Cholestatoma might be immunomodulatory regulated.