What is otosclerosis?

Otosclerosis is a condition in which bone tissue grows abnormally in the middle ear—usually around the smallest hearing bone, called the stapes. The condition causes hearing loss, typically in one ear but sometimes in both ears simultaneously (or sequentially). The hearing loss is often gradual in onset and usually starts in early to middle adulthood.

The hearing loss of otosclerosis is typically mechanical in nature, also known as conductive hearing loss. As the bone tissue grows and hardens in this tiny area of the ear, it limits vibratory sound transmission from the eardrum to the inner ear organ (the cochlea).

doctor consulting patient

Otosclerosis Symptoms

The hallmark symptom of otosclerosis is hearing loss that is characterized by muffled environmental sounds paired with oddly amplified “self” sounds. For example, the sound of your own talking, swallowing, or chewing may seem abnormally loud. Patients also note that they can hear speech and complex sound sources like music very clearly as long as it is presented loudly enough.

If you have been diagnosed with otosclerosis, or are concerned you may be experiencing the symptoms of this disorder, please contact our ENT department. We will promptly schedule you for a consultation with our neurotologist/otologist surgeon.

Otosclerosis Treatments

Once diagnosed, treatment options are available for otosclerosis-induced hearing loss. These options include:

  • Bone-anchored hearing device
  • Hearing aid
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Watchful waiting with periodic hearing tests

Our specialists will outline the pros and cons of each option for your unique case.

Otosclerosis, compared with many other hearing loss conditions, is highly responsive to both hearing aid technology and surgery.

The surgical procedure for this condition, termed stapedotomy, entails a microscopic replacement of the fused hearing bone with a titanium prosthesis—an artificial hearing bone. In most cases, your surgeon will employ both advanced microscopic technology and surgical lasers to aid in the exact precision and minimally invasive nature of these cases.

Outcomes typically are excellent, with over 90% of patients experiencing a significant improvement in their hearing following surgery. The procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia and is associated with a brief and relatively easy recovery period.

Additional Information

Who gets otosclerosis?

The condition is more common in women but does occur in men. It may have some link to hormone circulation in the body. As such, many female patients note that hearing loss caused by otosclerosis tends to occur during, or in the years immediately following, a pregnancy. In other cases no known trigger is discovered.

Patients with otosclerosis typically do not have a history of other ear-related conditions, infections, or trauma. The hearing loss of otosclerosis can occur alone or be coupled with an unrelated nerve-hearing loss.

How is otosclerosis diagnosed?

The distinct hearing loss pattern that arises from this condition can be difficult for patients to differentiate on their own, but is very easily diagnosed with a formal hearing test called a behavioral audiogram.Your doctor may also conduct a computed tomography (CT) imaging scan of your ear to better understand your specific case.

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More than 3 million Americans have otosclerosis.
Medically Reviewed by Shawn Michael Stevens, MD, FACS on April 22, 2021