Posted on Monday, September 03, 2012

Hearing Loss and Otosclerosis

Doctor discusses otosclerosis with patient.

Sometimes the cause of hearing loss is something that could have been avoided, like noise, and sometimes it's something no one could have foreseen, like the mysterious bone growth of the middle ear called otosclerosis.

Although the exact cause of otosclerosis is a mystery, the result of this abnormal bone growth around the ossicles (three tiny bones of the middle ear) is often the loss of hearing. The ossicles bones need to remain flexible for vibrations to be transmitted into sounds, but the abnormal growth of bone fixates one or more of these bones. The result is typically a decline in conductive hearing—as the passage in the middle and outer ear becomes immune to sound waves. Rarely, otosclerosis can result in sensorineural hearing loss, meaning it’s not the middle ear or even outer ear damaged, but the delicate hair cells of the inner ear. Decline in hearing in all cases is gradual and is usually noticed in the third decade or later in life.

Causes of Otosclerosis

The exact cause of the otosclerosis remains a mystery, but there are some factors thought to contribute to its likelihood.

Hereditary—otosclerosis can be inherited and is 25% more likely if one parent has it and 50% more likely if two parents have it.
Pregnancy—otosclerosis is more common in pregnant women or women who’ve had multiple pregnancies.
Viral—research suggests that there is a link between the emergence of this condition and exposure to certain viruses like measles. It is thought that the condition may lay dormant within a person until it is instigated by exposure.

Symptoms of Otosclerosis

Tinnitus—a buzzing, clicking, or whining sound within the ear when there is no noise present.
Hearing loss—the most common sign of otosclerosis is hearing loss. A deficit in ability to hear low pitched sounds, whispers, women’s and children’s voices is typically a first stage in this hearing loss.
Balance—loss of balance that may include nausea and feelings of vertigo is also a symptom of this condition.

Although the exact cause of otosclerosis is a mystery, there are some things that are known. For example, otosclerosis is usually bilateral, meaning it occurs in both ears. It is also more common in women than men, and afflicts Caucasians and Asians more than African Americans. Like other types of hearing loss, hearing loss brought on by otosclerosis can be addressed and remedied with help from your hearing health professional.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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