What is otosclerosis? It most commonly affects women 15 to 30 years old, but it can occur in anyone at any age. Otosclerosis is defined as “oto, meaning ‘of the ear’ and sclerosis, meaning ‘abnormal hardening of body tissue” (nidcd.nih.gov). Essentially, an abnormal sponge-like bone growth occurs in the middle ear. When affected by this condition people start to realize they cannot hear low-pitched sounds, like whispering due to the bone growth blocking sound waves. Otosclerosis affects more than 3 million Americans. The most at risk individuals are those who are pregnant or have a family history of it.
How does someone get diagnosed?
The symptoms of otosclerosis occur very gradually. They include dizziness, balance issues, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Most people notice they are unable to hear low-pitched noises and go get checked out by a professional. The professional, either an audiologist or ENT (otolaryngologists), will ask questions and run tests that help them determine the diagnosis. In some cases, a CT scan might be warranted to determine if otosclerosis is present or not.
What are the next steps?
After being diagnosed with otosclerosis, what’s next? As of now, there are not any non-surgical treatments available. Research has shown that in mild cases a hearing aid has benefited the user. While this method helps the hearing difficulty, it does not stop it from getting worse over time. The most common surgery used is a stapedectomy. In this procedure, “a surgeon inserts a prosthetic device into the middle ear to bypass the abnormal bone and permit sound waves to travel to the inner ear and restore hearing” (nidcd.nih.gov). Future research is showing the effectiveness of using fluoride, calcium, or vitamin D, to abate hearing loss.
Due to otosclerosis being a gradual disease, it is good to know the signs and symptoms to catch it early. If you or a loved one are having ear or hearing difficulty, please contact your local audiologist or hearing care professional today!