What is Otosclerosis?
Otosclerosis is a rare condition that affects a bone in the inner ear (usually the stapes bone) and leads to hearing loss. Approximately 3 million Americans suffer from otosclerosis. While both men and women can develop otosclerosis, women are at a higher risk for this condition. In most cases, otosclerosis develops at a young age. However, symptoms are typically most severe in an individual's thirties.
Causes of Otosclerosis
Otosclerosis occurs when one of the small bones in an individual's inner ear (typically the staples bone) in unable to vibrate as it should and becomes stuck in place. In order to hear properly, the stapes bone must be able to vibrate. When the stapes bone can no longer vibrate, sound does not move to the inner ear effectively and causes conductive hearing loss.
Some other health related issues that can increase your chances of developing otosclerosis include the following:
- Auto-immune disorders.
- Stress fractures in or around the inner ear.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Otosclerosis
Otosclerosis causes conductive hearing loss, which occurs when there are difficulties transferring sound anywhere between the outer ear and middle ear. During initial stages of otosclerosis, most individuals are unable to hear lower pitched noises. This hearing loss usually becomes progressively worse.
Otosclerosis generally affects people in both ears as only about 10% of people having symptoms in one ear. Symptoms may be limited to conductive hearing loss, but may also include:
- A ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears (tinnitus).
- Dizziness or the feeling of losing your balance (vertigo).
If you experience these symptoms, visit your ENT specialist. They can properly analyze your conditions, examine your ears, and perform testing on your hearing to determine if you suffer from otosclerosis. A more extensive examination may even include a CT scan.
Treatments for Otosclerosis
For mild cases of otosclerosis, your ENT specialist may initially recommend a waiting period where they perform testing on your hearing at regular intervals and/or advise for the use of hearing aids.
In more severe cases of otosclerosis, or if your mild symptoms do not improve over time, your ENT specialist may recommend a stapedectomy. A stapedectomy is a surgical procedure involving a device placed in the middle ear that facilitates movement of the stuck stapes bone.
It allows sound waves to travel properly to your inner ear. While stapedectomy surgery does improve hearing for most individuals with otosclerosis, it can make hearing loss worse in some rare cases.