If you’re in your 20’s or early 30’s and have noticed that you’re having a harder time hearing, you may have a disease called Otosclerosis that tends to run in families. This condition is the most common cause of middle ear hearing loss in young adults. It typically begins in early to mid-adulthood.
What is Otosclerosis?
When sound enters the ear canal it bumps up against the eardrum. The sound is then conducted through the eardrum to the three bones of hearing. The last bone is called the stapes. When you have otosclerosis, the stapes doesn’t transmit the sound to the inner ear normally because of abnormal bony deposits that form around its base. These deposits form gradually over years. As the deposits build up, the hearing worsens. These bony deposits frequently occur in both ears. Low-pitched sounds are usually the first to become more difficult to hear correctly. You may also experience tinnitus or ear noises as well as dizziness or imbalance.
Who Is At Risk?
Approximately 10% of the white population have otosclerosis, although in many the hearing is only mildly affected or not at all. It is less common in other populations. Typically there is a slowly progressive hearing loss in one or both ears that usually begins in the 20’s to early 40’s. It may affect men or women. For reasons not understood, pregnant women may experience a very rapid deterioration in hearing during pregnancy.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Otosclerosis
Otosclerosis can be diagnosed easily by an ear specialist with the help of an audiologist. Hearing testing is usually done in conjunction with an ear exam. If the hearing loss is mild, your specialist may recommend that you be simply observed from time to time to gauge the condition’s progression. Hearing aids are very successful in helping with the hearing loss if it’s moderate or severe.
If you don’t want hearing aids, stapedectomy is a surgical procedure that can be used to treat otosclerosis. Stapedectomy is usually done as an outpatient in a surgical center with the person under anesthesia. With the aid of a microscope, the eardrum is lifted up so as to view the bones of hearing, specifically the stapes. The stapes bone is removed and replaced with an artificial bone made of various materials. This surgery has a success rate of about 90%. In 1-2% of surgeries, the hearing worsens after surgery for unknown reasons.
At Advanced Audiology and Hearing Aid Services, we diagnose and treat people of all ages. We specialize in hearing tests, hearing aids and other solutions for your hearing health. Our audiologists are conveniently located with offices in Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield in Fairfield County, CT.
- Jeffrey Monroe, MD