Otosclerosis is a hearing disorder that is caused by an abnormal amount of bone growth in the middle ear ossicular chain. Our middle ear system is comprised of the tympanic membrane (more commonly known as the eardrum) and three little bones that make up the ossicular chain. The malleus, incus, and stapes all vibrate together to help transduce sound through the middle ear and into the inner ear. When otosclerosis manifests, it typically affects the stapes bone. When the abnormal bone growth occurs, the stapes bone becomes “fixed” into place, and then it cannot vibrate which then causes hearing loss. This particular type of hearing loss is called a conductive hearing loss.
Otosclerosis currently affects more than 3 million Americans. It most often begins anywhere between the ages of 10 and 45, but you are most likely to notice onset somewhere in your twenties. Otosclerosis has been reported in some children as young as 6 years old. There is a strong genetic component to this hearing disorder – with about 50% of cases having a positive family history. Both men and women are found to get otosclerosis, but women have a higher risk. Additionally, it can be exacerbated by pregnancy. It is also more commonly found in Caucasians.
Along with a progressive hearing loss, some patients may also notice other accompanying symptoms such as dizziness or balance problems as well as tinnitus or ringing in the ears. For proper diagnosis of otosclerosis, it is important that an Audiologist perform a comprehensive audiological evaluation. Sometimes an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) physician will also order a CT scan of the middle ear space to get a good look at the health and appearance of the middle ear bones.
There are a few treatment options to help those who suffer from Otosclerosis. With early onset otosclerosis, most ENT physicians won’t want to operate just yet. They usually take a “watch and wait” approach which consists of routine audiological evaluations and in some cases, follow up CT scans. In most cases for surgery, the procedure is done to take out the old stapes bone, and it is actually replaced with a new prosthetic stapes bone. If surgery is contraindicated by the physician or the patient’s health status, sometimes a standard hearing aid or a bone anchored hearing aid may help. For these treatment options, you would follow up with your Audiologist.
If you have a family history of hearing loss and notice that your symptoms resemble any of these listed, please contact one of our clinics today to get scheduled for an office visit with one of our Audiologists and our ENT physicians.