What does our ear look like?
There are three parts to the ear. The “outer ear” is the area where we generally stick a cotton swab in to clean, the “middle ear” is the area behind our eardrum which is most often affected by a common ear infection or fluid, and the “inner ear” is where our hearing organ and hearing nerve lives.
What is Otosclerosis?
Let’s focus on the middle ear. There are three tiny bones here: you might have heard of the “hammer,” the “anvil” and the “stirrup.” Whenever we hear a sound, it activates these bones like a chain and sends the signal to our hearing organ. Otosclerosis is a condition where there is excessive growth, particularly on the stirrup bone, also known as the stapes bone, causing it to be “fixed” and unable to move freely. Once this happens, we do not hear well and it results in a hearing impairment. This growth is usually soft tissue at first, but can harden with time.
Why does it happen and what are the symptoms?
The etiology or cause is unknown, but there can be a genetic and progressive component to this condition. It is twice as likely to occur in females than males. Early symptoms: you may have trouble hearing and might have dizziness or “ringing/buzzing” in the ears, also known as tinnitus. In eight out of 10 cases, it affects both ears.
What should I do and what are my treatment options?
Consider an evaluation by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) and an audiologist (hearing and balance specialist). The evaluation can consist of imaging, ear pressure testing and a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Following the assessment and diagnosis, certain treatment options may be recommended. These can include medications, surgical options, and hearing devices to treat the hearing impairment. A stapedectomy is a common surgical procedure which involves replacing the stapes bone with a prosthetic. This procedure can improve hearing, but it may not result in normal hearing again. Patients will most likely still need a hearing device depending on the degree of residual hearing loss. The resulting hearing loss does not cause a lot of distortion of sound in the ear, so treatment with hearing devices is very successful. Your audiologist will recommend the style and type of
device that is best suited for your needs.
Jerger and Jerger. Auditory Disorders, A Manual For Clinical Evaluation. College Hill Pess. 1981.
Katz, Jack, et al. Handbook of Clinical Audiology, Sixth Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2009.
“What you should know about Otosclerosis.” American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head And Neck