The definition of otosclerosis is the abnormal formation of new bone in the middle ear that stops the stapes, a small bone in the middle ear, from moving which stops it from vibrating in response to sound, leading to progressive conductive hearing loss. Your stapes bone needs to vibrate for you to hear well. So when this doesn’t happen, the sound is unable to travel from your middle ear to your inner ear, making it hard for you to hear.
It isn’t entirely clear as to why otosclerosis happens or why it affects certain people. However, it does seem to run in families. You can start developing otosclerosis between 10 and 45 years old, but you are more likely to get otosclerosis when you are in your 20s, with symptoms getting worse in your 30s. Both women and men can get otosclerosis. However, women have a higher risk, especially during pregnancy. Certain medical conditions such as measles, stress fractures, and immune disorders are thought to increase your risk of developing it.
A loss of hearing is the leading symptom of otosclerosis which can happen in either one or both ears. Most people with otosclerosis tend to notice that there hearing has begun to deteriorate when they are in their 20s or 30s. However, because it is a gradual hearing loss, most people only really become aware of a significant change to their hearing much later on.
It’s common for people to find that their hearing is much better when they are more of a noisy setting. This happens because otosclerosis is affecting how they hear deeper, low-pitched sounds. If a person was to speak loudly to them, the affected person would be able to hear it much more easily and it won’t get lost among the background noise. It can also make the person’s voice sound louder to them so may overcompensate by speaking much more quietly than usual.
Other common symptoms associated with otosclerosis include:
Otosclerosis will likely get worse over time as the bone continues to become more and more immobile. If it is left untreated, your hearing will gradually get worse as a result. Once you have been diagnosed with otosclerosis, the good news is that any hearing loss you have experienced as a result of it can be improved and treated by either hearing aids or with otosclerosis surgery.
Hearing aids are less invasive than surgery and offer a quick improvement to your hearing by amplifying the sounds that enter your ear. They are electronic devices that are worn inside or behind the ear and most modern hearing aids are very small and discreet. Your hearing care professional will identify the kind of sound situations where your hearing needs improvement and will recommend the right hearing aid for your needs.
Surgery is an additional option to treat otosclerosis. The procedure, called stapedectomy surgery, involves removing some of the enlarged bone and replacing it with a plastic or metal implant to help the bones work normally.
In most cases, otosclerosis just affects the stapes bone in your middle ear. However, it can sometimes spread into the inner ear and affect your cochlea. This is what creates the electrical signals to send to the brain. Hearing loss that results from cochlear otosclerosis is significantly worse than with otosclerosis and cannot be treated with surgery.
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