Otosclerosis is a condition of the ear caused when an abnormal growth surrounds the tiny vibrating bones of the middle ear, resulting in conductive hearing loss. It typically affects the Stapes bone which, when immobilized, cannot properly conduct sound energy toward the inner ear.
Approximately 60 percent of otosclerosis cases are hereditary. While it is seen across ethnic groups, it is most common in Caucasians between 20 and 45 years of age. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men and, once affected, often experience accelerated hearing loss during pregnancy.
Hearing loss is the primary symptom of otosclerosis. The hearing loss may be in one or both ears. It usually begins with mild loss, but often increases over time. Patients with otosclerosis may also suffer tinnitus, a ringing or rushing sound in the affected ear. Balance problems such as dizziness, vertigo, and unsteadiness may also occur, but are far less common.
Patients with possible otosclerosis are first given a hearing test. However, as hearing loss can be caused by a number of disorders, a CT scan may sometimes be recommended.
The good news is that conductive hearing loss due to otosclerosis is reversible, in most cases, with a surgical procedure known as a laser stapedotomy. Part of the Stapes is removed and replaced with a prosthesis that, once in place, allows the bones of the middle ear to move properly, thus restoring conductive function to the ear.
At NYOG, Dr. Sperling uses a specialized laser stapedotomy technique that includes vein grafting in order to eliminate post-operative vertigo, which is common after more traditional stapedectomy procedures. This technique is 90 percent to 95 percent effective at restoring the ability to hear, often immediately after surgery.
As an alternative to stapedectomy (surgery), traditional hearing aids can correct the hearing loss associated with otosclerosis. In some cases, a sodium fluoride treatment may also be prescribed to slow the progression of the disease.