Otosclerosis is a type of conductive hearing loss that is experienced as a result of an abnormal bone growth located in the area of your middle ear. This bone growth obstructs the way sound is harnessed into the ear, and how the brain processes those sounds.
Otosclerosis and its Relationship to Hearing Loss
Sound frequencies are transformed into mechanical energy and then to electrical energy inside the ear. There are three small bones in your middle ear that vibrate and help with this process. They are known as the malleus, incus, and stapes. For individuals who experience otosclerosis, the smallest bone in their body (the stapes) becomes stuck to its surrounding structure, and it cannot vibrate. Vibrations are necessary for sound to travel through the ear. This is what allows a person to hear.
The flow of energy simply stops. Sound will go into the ear, but the bone growth in the middle ear blocks it from traveling through towards the inner ear.
In some instances, when the ear can no longer transmit sound, people affected by this may initially recognize a low-frequency hearing loss, where low-pitched sounds are more difficult to hear.
Who Typically Experiences Otosclerosis?
Overall, otosclerosis is rare among people with hearing loss. The most common causes of conductive hearing loss are earwax, middle ear fluid, and perforated eardrums.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), there are over 3 million Americans who have otosclerosis. It is still unknown as to why people develop this problem.
Is Otosclerosis Preventable?
There are no preventive measures - like reducing exposure to loud noise, diet, or smoking - that can be cut out of your lifestyle to reduce your odds of getting otosclerosis.
Risk Factors of Otosclerosis
What are the Symptoms of Otosclerosis?
The most common symptoms of otosclerosis are slowly progressive hearing loss and tinnitus. Other symptoms may include dizziness (vertigo).
Otosclerosis can occur in one ear or both ears. When both ears are affected, this is known as bilateral otosclerosis.
Treatment Options for Otosclerosis
According to the NIDCD, there are no medications that are known to treat otosclerosis. If you are diagnosed with otosclerosis, the treatment options would be based on the severity of your hearing loss.
Your hearing healthcare provider may simply wait and observe, without intervening. It’s recommended to be observed by your hearing healthcare professional when the hearing loss is mild.
Another treatment option is using hearing aids to help you hear. For some people with hearing loss caused by otosclerosis, hearing aids would be appropriate. Hearing aid devices will take care of the primary symptoms of hearing loss, but it will not treat the underlying condition of otosclerosis.
Stapedectomy: Surgery for Otosclerosis
Surgery is an alternative option for treatment. A stapedectomy involves removing the non-moving stape bone and replacing it with a prosthesis made from titanium.
A stapedectomy is performed while a patient is under anesthesia. In some cases, the patient can be released from the hospital or clinic on the same day after the procedure is done, but some centers might recommend staying overnight.
In most cases, this surgical procedure can restore hearing. In less common cases, there may be some complications that can induce severe hearing loss or other side effects. For those with bilateral otosclerosis, surgery is performed on the worse ear first. This allows it to heal before getting surgery on the other ear.
Getting a hearing aid does not rule out the need for surgery in the future. It is recommended that patients with otosclerosis try hearing aids and then get surgery later.
When should You seek Help for Otosclerosis?
Just like with any health problem, do not ignore seeking guidance and treatment for otosclerosis. It will continue to worsen without treatment.
If you notice symptoms of dizziness, hearing loss, or tinnitus, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a free hearing test and consultation. One of our hearing instrument specialists will go over hearing aid treatment options with you.