Any condition that impacts your ability to hear can be detrimental to your overall quality of life. Hearing loss can affect the way you communicate with others, your performance at your job and how you enjoy certain hobbies.
The ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center understand just how important it is to be able to hear well. We’re specially trained to work with people dealing with hearing loss, including if it is caused by otosclerosis, a genetic condition that affects bone growth in the middle ear.
Health care providers from around the state and region regularly refer their patients with hearing loss to the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center because of our nationally ranked Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, and because many of the best neurotologists in the state of Ohio are found here. If otosclerosis is the reason for your ear issues, we have a variety of surgical and nonsurgical treatments to manage them.
What is otosclerosis?
Otosclerosis is a common cause of hearing loss, especially in young adults. It affects 3 million Americans.
The disease, which is thought to be genetic (or familial), causes abnormal bony growths to form in the middle ear, mainly around the stapes bone. These growths interfere with the normal operation of the ear bones that vibrate when sound waves are detected. This lack of vibration negatively impacts how you hear.
What causes otosclerosis?
We don’t know exactly what causes it, but many think it’s linked to your genetics and family health history.
The most common symptom of otosclerosis is gradual hearing loss, typically over the course of several years. Hearing loss usually happens in both ears, but in about 10% of cases, only one ear is affected.
Otosclerosis rarely results in total hearing loss, however. Over time, you might notice you can no longer hear whispering or low-pitched sounds.
Sometimes the bony growths can cause other symptoms related to the ears. Those include:
How is otosclerosis diagnosed?
Then, one of our ENT specialists will work with you to rule out other causes of hearing loss. Finally, a computed tomography (CT) scan and other imaging techniques can give your doctors an up-close look at the bones and tissues inside your ear.
Treatment of otosclerosis depends on the severity of your symptoms. Sometimes we can manage the disease with less-invasive measures, while other times surgery might be necessary. Interventions we might recommend include:
- Vitamins – Calcium, fluoride and vitamin D may help slow the loss of hearing.
- Hearing aids – These can help mitigate hearing loss while also managing other symptoms, like vertigo or tinnitus.
- A stapedectomy – This surgical technique, which is done under anesthesia, involves removing the stapes bone and replacing it with an artificial device that allows the vibrations of sound waves. If your hearing loss is minimal, you and your doctor might decide on a watch-and-wait approach until symptoms become more apparent.