What is Otosclerosis?

Woman's ear

What is otosclerosis?

Otosclerosis is a condition of the middle ear, in which abnormal growth occurs in one or more of the series of bones which transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear via the cochlea. When these bones become deformed. conductive hearing loss can occur. If the abnormal bone growth becomes severe enough, it can also cause balance issues.

Women are most likely to suffer from otosclerosis, an overgrowth of tiny bones in the ear.

The middle ear contains three tiny bones - the hammer (malleus) which is attached to eardrum; the anvil (incus) which takes the center spot in the chain of bones, and the stirrup (stapes) which is attached to the membrane-covered "doorway" between the middle ear and the inner ear.

Otosclerosis usually affects the last bone in the middle ear, which is the stapes. It is located right up against the entrance to the cochlea which is the fluid-filled organ that senses sound and passes it on to the membranes which deliver signals to the brain. When overgrowth of the bone is caused by otosclerosis, the stapes can't press against the cochlea and cause problems with the transfer of sound to the membrane, and through to the brain.

This condition often begins in early to mid-adulthood. It is more common among women, who may develop the beginnings of otosclerosis as early as 15 to 30 years of age. Women who become pregnant may find themselves affected by an acceleration of the bone growth. When left untreated, otosclerosis can cause rapid onset hearing loss that continues to worsen with age, as well as tinnitus, vertigo, and other problems associated with the inner ear.

If otosclerosis causes bone overgrowth to press hard on the cochlea, some nerve damage may occur to the auditory nerve. As a result, sensorineural hearing loss may be added alongside the conductive hearing loss. Early stage otosclerosis may be managed and some surgeries exist for those who are candidates to have the issue resolved completely. For others, hearing aids designed to help those with conductive hearing loss may be appropriate, or, for extremely severe cases, hearing implants. Otosclerosis is not life threatening but can cause significant life changes for those who do not seek treatment.

Otosclerosis is a condition of the middle ear, in which abnormal growth occurs in one or more of the series of bones which transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear via the cochlea.