Otosclerosis occurs when abnormal new bone forms in the inner ear. This growth prevents proper functioning of other ear structures. This condition is a common cause of hearing loss.
The Inner Ear
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The cause of otosclerosis is still unknown, but genetics appears to play a role.
Otosclerosis is more common in Caucasians, Asians, females, and in people in their teens through late 40s. Other factors that increase chance of otosclerosis include:
- Family history of otosclerosis
- Drinking nonfluoridated water—some studies suggest that nonfluoridated water may cause a susceptible person to develop otosclerosis
- Hormonal factors, such as pregnancy
- Viral infections, including measles
Gradual hearing loss is the main symptom of otosclerosis. Hearing loss may be of two types:
- Conductive—involving the small bones of the inner ear
- Sensorineural—involving the cochlea, which is the sensory organ in the inner ear
Early in the disease, you may first notice trouble hearing low-pitched sounds or whispers. Other symptoms may include:
- A sensation of spinning
- Balance problems
- A sensation of ringing, roaring, or buzzing in the ear
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your ears may be tested. This can be done with a hearing test.
Images may be taken of your ear. This can be done with:
Treatments may include:
Hearing aids may be effective for conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
In many cases, a procedure called a stapedectomy may improve hearing. The purpose of this operation is to replace the diseased bone with an artificial device that can transmit sound waves to the inner ear. Stapedectomy is effective and frequently returns hearing to a near normal level.
Fluoride tablets are sometimes prescribed to stabilize the condition and prevent further sensorineural hearing loss. However, this treatment remains controversial and unproven.
Prevention methods include:
- Drinking fluoridated water
- Getting the measles vaccination
Otosclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 4, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2013.
Otosclerosis. Massachusetts Eye and Ear website. Available at:
http://www.masseyeandear.org/for-patients/patient-guide/patient-education/diseases-and-conditions/otosclerosis. Updated July 3, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2013.
Otosclerosis. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at:
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/otosclerosis.aspx. Updated May 1999. Accessed September 17, 2013.
What you should know about otosclerosis. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/healthinformation/otosclerosis.cfm. Updated October 13, 2011. Accessed September 17, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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