What Is Otosclerosis?
Otosclerosis is a rare condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Most of the time, this happens when bone tissue in your middle ear grows around the stapes in a way it shouldn’t.
Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.
The main symptom of otosclerosis is hearing loss. At first, you may notice that you can’t hear low-pitched sounds or people whispering. This usually gets worse over time.
Most people with otosclerosis have hearing loss in both ears. About 10% to 15% have hearing loss in just one ear. Other symptoms include:
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Tinnitus, or ringing, roaring, or hissing in your ears
- Sometimes tinnitus can be a problem after you have ear surgery to treat otosclerosis.
If you notice you have trouble hearing, see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT). He’ll look closely at your ear, test your hearing, and ask about your family health history. In some cases, he may recommend a computerized tomography (CT) scan. A series of X-rays are taken at different angles and put together to make a more detailed image.
If your otosclerosis is mild, your doctor may take a watch-and-wait approach and test your hearing regularly. She might also recommend that you get a hearing aid.
Some doctors may treat otosclerosis with sodium fluoride, a dietary supplement. But this hasn’t been proven to work.
If your hearing loss is serious or gets worse, your doctor may recommend a surgery called a stapedectomy. With this procedure, a surgeon puts a device in your middle ear that moves the stuck stapes bone, letting sound waves travel to your inner ear so you can hear better.
If you have otosclerosis in both ears, a surgeon will operate on one ear at a time. After the first one, you’ll need to wait at least 6 months for it to be done on your other ear.