Otosclerosis is a progressively harmful disorder of the ear that is characterized by abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. The effect of this abnormal growth, which is primarily hereditary, is to impede or halt the conveyance of sound waves. The first signs of otosclerosis most often become apparent in the late teens to early 40s, and it may affect both men and women of any race.
Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of bone in the middle of the ear, which restricts the stapes bone from moving. In otosclerosis, the stapes bone gets fixated to the underlying bone in such a way that it does not vibrate, blocking sound transmission through the inner ear and hence to the eardrum and cochlea. This results in progressive deafness. Read on to understand the causes of otosclerosis.
What precisely causes otosclerosis is still not well understood. Here are some of the contributing factors.
Common early symptoms of otosclerosis include the following:
1. Progressive Hearing Loss: One of the major early signs of Otosclerosis is a gradual decrease in hearing that comes and goes initially.
2. Vertigo: Vertigo is a spinning or rocking sensation that affects balance, especially when you tilt your head.
3. Tinnitus: Tinnitus refers to a ringing, buzzing, roaring, or hissing sound in your head not caused by an external source.
4. Difficulty hearing low-pitched sounds: Firstly, people with otosclerosis have difficulty hearing low-pitched sounds. A common complaint, for example, might be that “I can’t hear a whisper,” or “I can’t hear soft sounds.”
If you experience the above-mentioned symptoms, make sure that you consult an ENT for expert opinion.
A diagnosis of otosclerosis is generally based upon a combination of these procedures:
1. Medical History Review and Physical Examination
2. Audiometric Testing (Audiogram)
4. Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
5. Stapedial Reflex Testing
6. Tuning Fork Tests
Treatment for otosclerosis aims to improve hearing and reduce the symptoms. The choice of treatment is determined by the severity of the condition and the specific needs of each patient. Therapeutic options include:
1. Observation: Milder cases of otosclerosis, may simply need to be monitored with regular hearing tests.
2. Hearing Aids: For many people with otosclerosis, amplifying sound with a hearing aid can help make up for hearing loss. This non-invasive option is for people who are not candidates for surgery or who prefer not to have surgery.
3. Surgery: Most people with otosclerosis regain their hearing through surgery. The most common procedure is called a stapedectomy. During a stapedectomy, part or all of the immobilized stapes bone is removed and replaced with a prosthetic device, such as a wire, a loop, or a spring. Removing the immobilized bone and replacing it with a prosthetic device restores the movement of the bones in the middle ear, and this should improve or restore hearing. During a similar surgery called a stapedotomy, a tiny hole is made in the stapes and a prosthesis is inserted. The success rate for both of these surgeries is very high. Of course, all surgeries come with risks that should be considered and discussed with an otolaryngologist.
4. Sodium Fluoride Therapy: Various studies have suggested that supplemental Sodium Fluoride can slow otosclerotic progression, especially the sensorineural hearing loss component. This treatment might originate its beneficial effects by inducing the strengthening of otospongiotic bone or damping down active otosclerotic foci. The efficacy of treatment with Sodium Fluoride has been controversial, and it has not become universally accepted in practice.
5. Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA): This option is for people with substantial mixed hearing loss for whom regular hearing aids are not effective or appropriate. A BAHA is a surgically implanted device that sends sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull bone.
6. Cochlear Implants: These electric devices are generally reserved for use in patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears who do not benefit enough from hearing aids.
If otosclerosis is not adequately treated or controlled, it may result in several problems, including:
There is no specific way to prevent otosclerosis because the exact cause is not known. However, several general steps and methods can help reduce the risk or delay its onset:
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Yes, while it may start in one ear, otosclerosis often eventually affects both ears.
While otosclerosis can lead to significant hearing loss, it rarely results in total deafness. However, untreated progressive hearing loss can significantly impair hearing.
Typically, otosclerosis progresses gradually. However, some factors, like pregnancy or hormonal changes, can accelerate its progression in certain individuals.
No! While "sclerosis" suggests bone hardening, as seen in arthritic conditions, otosclerosis is not arthritis. It's a unique condition where abnormal bone growth occurs in the middle ear.
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