In otosclerosis, the stapes bone that connects the inner ear to the middle ear is slowly replaced with bone. The bone grows and creates an abnormal joint between the stapes bone and the oval window, which is the opening for sound to enter the inner ear.
The cause of otosclerosis is unknown. It can run in families, but it also can occur in people with no family history. Most people develop symptoms gradually. People with otosclerosis may have:
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- A full feeling in the ears
- Muffled hearing
- Hearing loss is usually gradual, mild, and stable in the beginning
- Greater hearing loss over time
In about half of cases, otosclerosis runs in families. It occurs in both men and women. Otosclerosis occurs in people in their 30s and 40s, but it can also manifest in the early 20s.
What Exactly Is Otosclerosis?
Although the exact cause of otosclerosis is unknown, it is believed that the growth of bone in the middle ear causes changes in the inner ear, which over time can lead to hearing loss.
While there are no established causes behind otosclerosis, researchers find that it can be linked to a history of measles infection, immune disorders, or if there are previous stress fractures to the inner ear’s bony tissues.
What Are the Symptoms of Otosclerosis?
The symptoms of otosclerosis can usually be found in early adulthood, but also can be found in children. Either way, symptoms involve the gradual progression of hearing loss, difficulty catching low, deep sounds, dizziness, and tinnitus.
Can Otosclerosis Cause Total Deafness?
Otosclerosis can range from mild to severe, and while hearing loss can gradually progress over time, it rarely leads to total deafness. The key is to identify the symptoms early on and address the diagnosis with the appropriate treatment, which can either be done through surgery or with the use of hearing aids.
Hearing Aids for Otosclerosis
Treatment with hearing aids is highly effective in the early stages of otosclerosis, as it can improve the clarity of sound and help avoid any long-term damage.
Surgery for Otosclerosis
The goal of surgery for otosclerosis is to preserve hearing and improve the transmission of sound waves within the ear. Surgery involves reshaping the faulty bone in the middle ear, which can be done with a delicate procedure called a stapedectomy.
The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and allows for the surgeon to remove some of the bone in the middle ear. Once the reshaping is complete, the surgery creates a better connection with the middle ear and the sound waves are transferred more effectively.
When to Seek Medical Advice or Hearing Tests
Next to a family history of hearing impairment, sudden or progressive hearing loss are the most common symptoms of otosclerosis.
When having trouble hearing, you should schedule appointments with both your primary care physician and an ear, nose, and throat specialist who can rule out other hearing problems and make sure that you don’t have otosclerosis. However, it’s also encouraged to get a general check-up and hearing test once you reach your 20s.
The Bottom Line: Understanding Otosclerosis and How to Treat It
Hearing loss can be difficult in more ways than one as it can affect the person’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help.
If you think you have any sort of hearing impairment or experiencing gradual hearing loss, contact a local audiologist immediately to get a proper hearing test and address your specific concerns.
How Can We Help You?
Hear More Associates is the country’s most trusted hearing care specialist. We provide care to patients throughout Lexington, Greater Boston, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. From hearing tests to hearing aids, we got you covered! If you’re looking for a hearing care solution, reach out to us today.