Facts about otosclerosis

An abnormal bone growth in the ear

About otosclerosis symptoms, disease progression, causes & treatment options

Find out more about otosclerosis in our article. If you would like to have your hearing professionally tested or if you would like to treat an already diagnosed hearing loss with hearing aids - you can visit the Amplifon branch nearest to you. Our hearing specialists will advise you at any time, free of charge and without obligation. 

What exactly is otosclerosis?

In Otosclerosis, the stirrup bone (stapes) grows into the surrounding bones which stops it's ability to vibrate and create sound waves. This means that when suffering from this, a person experiences a loss of hearing because the brain cannot correctly receieve sound signals.

A more anatomical explanation

In otosclerosis, the bone surrounding the inner ear becomes diseased. Initially, an inflammation-like remodelling of the bone occurs with the result that the stapes footplate becomes fixed in the oval window. Once this happens, the affected person struggles with an increasing conductive hearing loss.

Occurrence

It can be common in young people in their 20s and 30s. Sclerosis of the ears affects women almost twice as often as men. Often the process is detectable in both ears, but in varying degrees. In addition, people with white skin colour suffer from the disease significantly more often than people with other skin colours.

Disease progression

During the pathological process, ossification occurs in the ear, which means the stapes grows together with the bone surrounding it. Instead of transmitting sound waves to the cochlea in the inner ear, the small ossicles solidify causing hearing loss.

Symptoms – hearing loss, tinnitus & Co.

You may experience symptoms of otosclerosis from as early as your 20s. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficultly heaing low volume sounds
  • Your voice sounds loud to you
  • Finding background noise helpful for your hearing
  • Tinnitus

A first sign of otosclerosis is increasing hearing loss in one ear. After some time, the second ear follows. Often, people with otosclerosis complain of tinnitus or ringing in the ears at the same time. Both can occur in connection with otosclerosis and therefore require medical clarification. 

Interestingly, patients report that they can follow conversations better in noisy environments. This could be related to the fact that they perceive disturbing sounds in low pitches more quietly due to the disease. In addition, people who suffer from this condition usually speak remarkably soft because their own voice is perceived as loud via bone conduction. 

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Possible causes

The causes of otosclerosis are still relatively unclear. Researchers are discussing the role played by familial heredity. However, viral infections, such as mumps, measles, rubella or hormonal influences are yet to be ruled out. 

A connection with the female sex hormones is primarily suggested by the accumulation of cases of otosclerosis in pregnancies and women in general. In some families, several family members suffer from the disease, which is why a genetic cause is also possible. 

Diagnosis with a hearing test (audiogram)

There are several ways to diagnose otosclerosis. During the examination by an ENT specialist, the eardrum, middle ear and eustachian tube initially appear inconspicuous. However, a hearing test and the corresponding sound audiogram will provide clues that something is wrong. Clear evidence can be found by looking at the so-called Carhart depression. 

This bone conduction threshold curve is located in the range between 1 and 4 kHz. However, not every patient shows this typical course in the audiogram. Various examinations provide information about whether a conductive or a sensorineural hearing loss is present and which ear is more severely affected. 

Treatment – can otosclerosis be cured?

Otosclerosis can be treated by various surgical procedures. The hearing loss associated with otosclerosis can in turn be alleviated with the help of hearing aids. Below, you will learn all the important details about the respective treatments.

Treatment of symptoms with hearing aids

Otosclerosis is a disease whose progression unfortunately cannot be stopped. Nevertheless, those affected do not have to sit idly by and watch their hearing slowly fade away. If surgery is not an option or the patient does not want to take this step, hearing aids can actively help to improve the hearing experience. 

The best place to start taking action is to book a free hearing test with an Audiologist, we can then determine the level of loss and the type of hearing aid which would suit your loss. We have many designs avaliable which can be very discreet and connect to your favourite devices.

About otosclerosis surgeries in general

Prospects for success and risks

As a rule, stapesplasty surgery is free of complications and many patients report positive experiences.However, no operation is completely risk-free, which is why otosclerosis surgery also carries risks. Under certain circumstances, the artificial stapes may slip off, resulting in a deterioration of hearing. Temporarily, dizziness, ringing in the ears and taste disorders may occur following such a stapesplasty operation. In very rare cases, deafness of the ear or nerve damage is possible. In these cases, as well as in cases of severe pain, fever and bright red bleeding, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

How long is one unable to work after an operation?

After an otosclerosis operation, the doctor will stuff the ear with gauze strips soaked in antibiotic ointment. The patient then stays in hospital for at least half a week. In total, the patient is on sick leave for a period of two to three weeks. During this time, water must not get into the ears. However, it takes six weeks for the ears to heal completely. Due to the pressure fluctuations, the patient is not allowed to fly or dive until this period has elapsed. 

Details on stapedectomy or stapesplasty surgery

Otosclerosis surgery can help many patients. In a stapesplasty, the doctor exchanges the smallest ossicle of the middle ear for a prosthesis and in this way helps the patient to regain hearing, as the artificial stapes can now vibrate again. During the stapes ear surgery, the patient is either under general anaesthesia or local anaesthesia. Through a small incision in the ear and a partial detachment of the eardrum, the doctor reaches the ossicles behind the ear and can remove the stapes and its base plate (stapedectomy).

Details on stapedotomy surgery

In a stapedotomy, the doctor leaves the thickened stapes plate in place and instead drills a fine hole into it, into which the prosthesis is inserted and anchored to the incus process. A fine diamond drill is usually used for this purpose. The doctor then brings the eardrum into its original position and fixes it in place with a tamponade.

Homeopathy and alternative healing methods

Homeopathy is a promising alternative to conventional medicine in many areas. However, since otosclerosis is a process that cannot be treated medically either, the chance of success for homeopathic remedies is rather low. More promising, on the other hand, is surgery or the use of a hearing aid to compensate for the hearing loss.

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