A stapedectomy might be recommended to you if you have severe hearing loss from otosclerosis, a genetic condition that causes abnormal bone growth in the ear.

In young adults, this is the most common type of gradual hearing loss in the middle ear. While it’s believed to be a genetic condition, experts are still unsure what causes it. No matter the cause, dealing with otosclerosis can be frustrating and even frightening.

You might try taking calcium, fluoride or vitamin D supplements to slow the hearing loss, or use hearing aids to manage some hearing issues, but if those treatments don’t work, you’ll likely need a stapedectomy.

The ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, have decades of experience performing this procedure, which can restore some of your hearing loss. Additionally, our nationally ranked Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has several experts who specialize in many types of ear diseases, so you’ll be in good hands as we get you on the road to recovery.

What is a stapedectomy?

When you have otosclerosis, the abnormal bone growth you experience prevents the normal operation of your ear bones, which usually vibrate when sound is detected. Those vibrations are what allow you to hear.

A stapedectomy can be a cure for this type of hearing loss. It’s a surgery that removes the middle ear bone (the stapes bone) and replaces it with a prosthesis. Sometimes only part of the stapes is removed, and that surgery is called a stapedotomy.

How is a stapedectomy performed?

Using a microscope, your ENT surgeon will enter the ear canal and make an incision to get to the stapes bone. Then, the stapes bone will be separated from the incus bone and removed.

An artificial device made of plastic or wire will replace it. This prosthesis will then conduct the sound vibrations that the abnormal bone growth had prevented, restoring your hearing. After the eardrum is put back in place, we’ll use a piece of fatty tissue taken from behind your ear or another part of your body to seal the surgical opening.

Preparing for a stapedectomy

Candidates for a stapedectomy often have significant hearing loss due to otosclerosis. Your doctor will perform a full examination of your ear and work with an audiologist, who will conduct hearing tests to determine if a stapedectomy is the proper treatment for your hearing loss.

If you proceed with the surgery, it’s important to remember that you’ll be under general anesthesia, so you’ll need to refrain from eating the night before and arrange to have a ride to and from surgery. You also might be put on an antibiotic to prevent infection.

What to expect during a stapedectomy

General anesthetic will be used, so you won’t feel pain during the surgery. A stapedectomy typically lasts an hour or two, and you’ll be able to go home the same day.

Stapedectomy recovery

You may experience mild discomfort at or near the incision site following the surgery. This should be able to be managed by over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Your ear might feel full or stuffy.

Tips to improve your recovery include:

  • Keep your ears dry for a few weeks by avoiding swimming and using a cotton ball covered in Vaseline to block the ear canal while showering.
  • Avoid airplane travel for at least three weeks, as the change in air pressure could dislodge the prosthesis before the ear has had a chance to heal.
  • Use antibiotic eardrops as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Don’t use earbuds until your ear has healed.

You should expect to take it easy for one to two weeks following a stapedectomy, because if you return to normal activities too early, you could damage the ear. A full recovery generally takes six weeks.

Your hearing might be restored right away, but for many people, the hearing begins to return about a week after surgery when the ear has healed. Improvements can continue for several months following a stapedectomy, and these are usually permanent.

Risks of a stapedectomy

The biggest risk of a stapedectomy is that it fails to improve your hearing. However, 80% to 90% of people who undergo the procedure experience some restoration of their hearing, and this percentage is even higher with experienced otologic surgeons like those here at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Other complications are rare and include:

  • Taste alteration
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Facial paralysis
  • Further hearing loss
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