Otosclerosis is a condition where the bones in the ear grow abnormally, causing the stapes bone to fuse with the surrounding bones. As the British Tinnitus Association explains, otosclerosis is the most common cause of progressive deafness in young adults. Otosclerosis does not have a known cause, although there are many theories on why it occurs, from genetic causes to viral illnesses. This short guide aims to explain the condition in detail, from the earliest symptoms to the final treatment.
Symptoms of Otosclerosis
The main symptom of otosclerosis is hearing loss, which typically begins with difficulty hearing whispers and low-pitched sounds, and gets worse over time. As WebMD points out, the hearing loss is usually in both ears, although 10-15% of sufferers have hearing loss in only one ear. You may find that background noise seems more significant or that your own voice seems loud. The condition also sometimes comes along with tinnitus or with dizziness. If you have any of these symptoms, speak to your GP as soon as possible.
The first step towards being diagnosed with otosclerosis is to speak to your GP, who will ask about your symptoms and then refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist. The diagnostic process is described by Hidden Hearing, who state that it can be diagnosed with painless hearing tests or with a CT scan. You will then be able to start discussing treatment options.
Treatment For Otosclerosis
The NHS explains that treatment for otosclerosis is generally successful, and consists of either hearing aids or surgery. Hearing aids are electronic devices which makes sounds seem louder and have the advantages of being discreet, easy to install and remove, and completely risk-free. There are different types of hearing aids, and a specialist will be able to help you choose the best one for you.
However, some people want a more permanent solution, such as surgery. The surgery that is performed to treat otosclerosis is called a stapedotomy or stapedectomy, and it involves a small cut being made so part of the stapes bone can be removed in order to restore your hearing. The procedure is not generally dangerous, but there are some risks that you can discuss with your specialist.
While losing your hearing as a young adult can be scary, otosclerosis is generally one that can be treated quickly and effectively with hearing aids or surgery. Therefore, if you are worried about your hearing, or feel that you can no longer hear as well as you used to, you should see your GP as soon as possible and ask for a referral to a specialist.