Posted on Monday, February 04, 2013

What is Otosclerosis Hearing Loss?

Female uses hearing aid after surgery for otosclerosis.

Hearing is the result of tiny and delicate instruments within the ears working with larger parts. When any one of these complex parts becomes damaged hearing loss can happen. Most hearing loss is often well understood, but the abnormal bone growth associated with otosclerosis is somewhat of a mystery.

Although the cause is mysterious, otosclerosis happens because there is abnormal bone growth around the ossicles (three tiny bones of the middle ear).

The ossicles bones need to remain flexible for vibrations to be transmitted into sounds, but the abnormal growth that results from otosclerosis fixates one or more of these bones impeding hearing. 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.

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.

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.

Otosclerosis is a mysterious condition, but that doesn't mean there aren't successful treatments that can reduce the bone growth and help to restore hearing loss. 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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