Otosclerosis is a condition that affects the middle ear and can result in a loss of hearing. It is believed that otosclerosis has a hereditary connection because it can be passed down through families. Fortunately, treatment is available to restore partial, if not all, the hearing loss.
What Is Otosclerosis?
Otosclerosis is a hardening of the bones in the middle ear that causes hearing loss. This loss gets worse over time. Hearing loss from otosclerosis can be reversed, unlike the hearing loss experienced from damage to the inner ear.
There are three bones in the middle ear. Otosclerosis, in most cases, involves the smallest of the three bones, the stapes. It is not known why it affects this bone, but the bottom of the bone becomes calcified by overgrowth of new bone, and it causes the stapes to become motionless.
Who Is at Risk?
Otosclerosis typically affects 10 percent of the caucasian population in the United States. Out of the 10 percent, about 1 percent will develop actual hearing loss, according to UC San Diego Medical Center. For young adults, it is said to be the most frequent cause of middle ear hearing loss. It is rare in African Americans and not common in South Americans or Japanese. Women are twice as likely to develop this condition as men, and expectant women who have otosclerosis find their hearing rapidly worsens during pregnancy.
Symptoms can appear as early as 15 and as late as 45 years old. Usually they appear sometime around the age of 20. Most patients develop tinnitus–a rushing or ringing sound in the ears. Some patients may experience dizziness, vertigo, or unsteadiness. About 80 percent of all patients will experience this condition in both ears.
Otosclerosis can be diagnosed with a simple hearing test. A temporal bone CT scan can also be used to diagnose the condition. To be absolutely sure, there is a surgical procedure thatcan be used to look into the middle ear. This is called an exploratory tympanotomy or, in layman’s terms, a middle ear exploration.