Otosclerosis is the growth of abnormal new bone in the inner ear. This growth prevents proper functioning of ear structures. Hearing loss can occur when the new bone surrounds the stapes and other small bones needed for hearing. This is a common cause of hearing loss.
The Inner Ear
The cause of otosclerosis is still unknown, but genetics appears to play a role.
Otosclerosis is more common in Caucasians, Asians, females, and in people in their teens through late 40s. Other factors that may increase chance of otosclerosis include:
- Family history of otosclerosis
- Drinking nonfluoridated water—some studies suggest that nonfluoridated water may cause a susceptible person to develop otosclerosis
- Hormonal factors, such as pregnancy
- Viral infections, including measles
Gradual hearing loss is the main symptom of otosclerosis. Hearing loss may be of 2 types:
- Conductive—involving the small bones of the inner ear
- Sensorineural—involving the cochlea, which is the sensory organ in the inner ear
Early in the disease, you may first notice trouble hearing low-pitched sounds or whispers. Other symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your ears may be tested. This can be done with a hearing test.
Images may be taken of your ear. This can be done with:
Treatments may include:
In many cases, a procedure called a stapedectomy may improve hearing. The purpose of this operation is to replace the diseased bone with an artificial device that can transmit sound waves to the inner ear. Stapedectomy is effective and frequently returns hearing to a near normal level.
Prevention methods include:
- Drinking fluoridated water
- Getting the measles vaccination
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Otosclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113667/Otosclerosis. Updated April 22, 2014. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Otosclerosis. Massachusetts Eye and Ear website. Available at: http://www.masseyeandear.org/for-patients/patient-guide/patient-education/diseases-and-conditions/otosclerosis. Accessed August 4, 2015.
Otosclerosis. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/otosclerosis.aspx. Updated September 2013. Accessed August 4, 2015.
What you should know about otosclerosis. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/?q=node/1316. Accessed August 4, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.