What is Otosclerosis?
Otosclerosis is disorder of abnormal bone metabolism and bone remodeling of the middle ear and inner ear. This most commonly results in hearing loss. Advanced cases can also cause vestibular dysfunction.
How Does Otosclerosis Affect My Hearing?
Hearing works by taking audible sound waves and converting them to an electric signal that the brain can process and interpret. This transformation is accomplished via the three small hearing bones in the middle ear. The hearing bones are called the malleus, incus, and stapes (also referred to as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup, respectively). As sound waves vibrate the eardrum, the hearing bones transmit the vibration to the inner ear, which contains fluid. The inner ear contains the snail-shaped hearing organ, called the cochlea. The cochlea contains thousands tiny hairs that move in response to fluid vibrations and generate a nerve impulse carrying auditory information to the brain.
Otosclerosis most commonly causes immobility (i.e. fixation) of the stapes bone, which results in hearing loss. Advanced cases can also affect the cochlea or the balance organs, causing balance dysfunction.
Symptoms of Otosclerosis
The most common symptom of otosclerosis is hearing loss, which is typically gradual at the onset. This may be hearing loss of only certain frequencies (pitches) or an overall higher threshold for hearing, such that someone can no longer hear quiet sounds. Tinnitus is also commonly reported, which may be present before the hearing loss is noticed.
When the bone growth affects the balance organs of the inner ear, vestibular symptoms such as vertigo and imbalance may also be present.
Causes of Otosclerosis
The causes of otosclerosis are unclear, although several risk factors have been identified. Although patients of all ages and genders can develop otosclerosis, it appears to be more prevalent in the Caucasian population, women, and patients in their 20s-30s. There has also been a genetic link identified, and two parents with otosclerosis have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children. However, the severity of the disease may be variable, and possibly asymptomatic. A past history of measles has also been suspected as a risk factor.
As it shares symptoms with many other ear and hearing disorders, diagnosing otosclerosis must be done by an experienced hearing health professional. During an assessment for any hearing and balance symptoms, the specialists at Associates of Otolaryngology may order a hearing test to check the function of the middle and inner ear. Although otosclerosis may be suspected based on your history, physical examination, and test results, the only way to know for certain that the stapes bone is immobile is by examination during surgery.
How to Treat Otosclerosis
Options for treating otosclerosis include observation, hearing amplification with a hearing aid, or surgical correction. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, a surgical procedure to remove and replace the stapes bone with a prosthetic hearing bone may be offered. The surgery is called stapedotomy or stapedectomy. For patients who are not surgical candidates, a hearing aid may be recommended to help amplify sounds and improve your hearing ability and speech understanding. Far advanced cases with profound hearing loss may benefit from cochlear implantation.
Otosclerosis Treatments in Colorado
When you experience a change in your hearing ability or balance, it’s always best to get evaluated by an otolaryngologist who can diagnose and treat diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Don’t delay getting relief and restoration of your hearing. Schedule a consultation with our providers today by calling our offices in Denver, Lone Tree, or Castle Rock, or by filling out a contact form online.