What is Otosclerosis? Is it may cause in hearing loss? The hearing is an important sense. If you can’t hear effectively, you probably can’t thoroughly enjoy life. Indeed, you want information about how to improve hearing loss. In this article, we detail everything you need to know about otosclerosis. This common ear condition affects the middle ear, causing gradual hearing loss.

What Is Otosclerosis?

To work correctly, your middle ear relies on the vibration of tiny bones, called ossicles. Otosclerosis occurs when you have abnormal bone growth or formation in your ossicles. Since bone anomalies affect vibration, you aren’t able to hear clearly due to extra bone mass or abnormal bone formation. The condition often affects both ears, although you may only experience it in one.

How Does Otosclerosis Occur?

ear chart of Otosclerosis and explaining each part of the ear

Image: Public Domain U.S. Federal Government, US Department of Health and Human Services, via Wikimedia

All bones throughout the human body are always changing. Because bone tissue is alive, it has cells that continually make and resorb bone. Usually, bones form in a normal, consistent way. Occasionally, however, abnormal bone growth or formation occurs. The ossicles in the middle ear change in size or shape during the bone-growth process. Either the stirrup or cochlea can be affected. With improperly formed ossicles, the ear fails to function properly. Hearing loss is often the consequence.

Hearing loss due to otosclerosis is known as the conductive hearing loss. This is because the condition interferes with the transmission of sound vibrations from the stirrup to the cochlea inside the ear. If the condition progresses beyond that and contributes to abnormal bone growth on the cochlea, you may experience sensorineural hearing loss. This happens when nerve cells are affected.

What Bones Are Affected?

When you usually hear, ossicles inside your ear vibrate freely when they encounter sound waves. Usually affecting the stirrup bone inside your ear, the condition causes abnormal bone growth. Often, the unnatural formation occurs at the base of the stirrup where it attaches to the cochlea. Since abnormal bone growth is slow, hearing loss is gradual.

What Causes Otosclerosis?

Doctors aren’t sure why otosclerosis occurs. Some think genetic factors are a leading cause. Others hypothesize that a virus or low-fluoride levels may contribute to the condition. What is clear, though, is that listening to loud music or working at a noisy job site does not cause otosclerosis. These behaviors can, however, contribute to other types of hearing loss. As such, you should take precautions to protect your ears if you routinely listen to loud music or work in a noisy environment.

To better understand, consider each of the possible causes: genetics, a virus and low-fluoride levels.

Genetic Causes of Otosclerosis

old man consults his doctor if he is have Otosclerosis or ear infection the doctor used a device to check the ear and seen in monitor

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Some doctors believe hereditary factors can contribute to the development of otosclerosis. There seems to be a correlation between genetics and the middle-ear condition. In fact, nearly two-thirds of those with otosclerosis have a relative with the condition. Given the occurrence of otosclerosis in the general population, though, the genetic link may merely be a coincidence.

Viral Causes of Otosclerosis

Viruses often have effects on a variety of body systems. Some in the medical community believe otosclerosis could have a viral link. Specifically, a group of doctors believes the measles virus contributes to the development of otosclerosis. Others speculate that a virus may aggravate a person’s predisposition to develop the condition.

Low-Fluoride Causes of Otosclerosis

Finally, low-fluoride levels could cause an individual to develop otosclerosis. In areas where fluoride added to community water supplies, otosclerosis incidents are usually lesser. As with the other possible causes of the condition, this connection could be spurious.

When Does Otosclerosis Usually Appear?

a man and woman sharing earphones, listening music outdoor

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Otosclerosis is a common ear condition. In fact, it affects between one and two percent of the population. Generally, the condition first develops in young adults who are between 15 and 35 years old. Developing otosclerosis earlier, however, is not uncommon. Moreover, women are about twice as likely to improve the condition than men. Since pregnancy may make otosclerosis worse, many women to diagnosed with it during pregnancy.

What Are Some Symptoms?

As mentioned, it may cause hearing loss. Therefore, hearing loss is the primary symptom of the condition. Unfortunately, determining whether you have hearing loss can be difficult. If you notice any of the following, however, you may not hear as well as you should.

  • Speaking quietly – Otosclerosis often makes the voice you hear inside your head sound louder than it is. In turn, you speak quietly so as not to shout. Therefore, if you speak softly, you may have otosclerosis.
  • Feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo – Your inner ear controls balance. As such, if you are feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo.
  • Hearing better in noisy environments – When your friends or family are in a noisy environment, they may raise their voices. Louder voices, of course, are easier to hear even for those who are experiencing hearing loss.
  • Hearing muffled sounds – If you hear muffled sounds, ringing, whistling or other types of noises seemingly coming from inside your ear, otosclerosis may be the culprit.

While this list of symptoms is not exhaustive, it does include the most common indicators of otosclerosis. Still, if you experience any of these, you may have a different type of hearing condition. Since hearing is so necessary for everyday life, you should not put off a visit to your doctor. Often, with just a few simple tests, medical professionals can diagnose or rule out serious ear problems.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Otosclerosis?

Living with hearing loss can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. If you suspect you are not hearing as well as you should, making an appointment with your doctor is essential. To diagnose, healthcare professionals conduct a series of procedures. The first is a visual inspection of your ear. For this, expect your doctor to use the device to look inside both your ears. If you have a normal, healthy-looking eardrum, your doctor may suspect otosclerosis is to blame for your hearing loss.

After conducting a visual examination, your doctor may ask you to submit for a hearing test. This should reveal whether you can hear certain sounds. If you can’t, your doctor may want you to visit an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat, specialist. These specialists have medical equipment that they can use to diagnose and other hearing conditions. Specifically, audiologists routinely use a tympanometer to measure the movement of bones inside your ear.

If specialized equipment does not identify the cause of your hearing loss, an audiologist may ask you to undergo a CT scan. This type of scan allows medical professionals to view the shapes and sizes of the bones in your middle ear.

How Do Doctors Treat Otosclerosis?

There are several methods for treating otosclerosis. Some are less invasive than others. Here are some of the most common approaches to improving your hearing after an otosclerosis diagnosis.

Hearing Aids

someone holding a hearing aid

Image: CC0 Creative Commons, kalhh, via Pixabay

The most common way to treat mild to moderate hearing loss is with hearing aids. These are effective during the early stages of otosclerosis, as they amplify sound. Of course, hearing aids often lose their effectiveness. Patients must then consider more drastic ways to improve hearing abilities.

Surgery

For severe cases of otosclerosis, surgery is often the best remedy. During the procedure, known as a stapedectomy, doctors replace abnormal bones with a plastic piece. The result is improved hearing for most patients. Nonetheless, the surgery is not without risk. Some patients experience side effects, including rapid onset of additional. Others lose hearing altogether.

Before deciding whether to undergo surgery, you must be certain you understand all the risks associated with a stapedectomy. Discussing surgical and other options with your healthcare provider is advisable.

Other Treatment Options

While the exact cause of otosclerosis is not known, some doctors use alternative treatment options to target suspected causes. These include fluoride tablets, hormone supplements, and contraceptives. The effectiveness of these treatment alternatives is debatable. They do, however, seem to alleviate the symptoms of otosclerosis in some patients.

Final Thoughts 

Being able to hear clearly and effectively is important to most. If you are suffering from hearing loss, you probably have some options. The first step, of course, is to meet with your doctor. If routine tests are unable to identify the cause of your hearing loss, you may need to ask your physician to refer you to a specialist. Both audiologists and ear, nose and throat specialists have equipment that helps them diagnose and other hearing conditions.

Because otosclerosis results in hearing loss, you may receive immediate relief from a hearing aid. If you have a more serious case, considering surgery is advisable. Either way, you should endeavor to learn as much as you can about and its treatment options. While we have attempted to give you honest, reliable and comprehensive information, we may have missed something important. Remember, your medical provider is your best resource for understanding. Rather than ignoring your hearing concerns, schedule an appointment to determine whether you have otosclerosis or another hearing condition.

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