What is Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis?
Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is a pathological condition of the ears in which there is an abnormal growth of a bone in the middle ear. This abnormal growth prevents the other structures within the ear to function normally resulting in hearing loss which may be severe for some individuals with Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis. The ear of an individual has three layers which are the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Hearing occurs when the ear converts sound waves into electrical impulses and sends these impulses through nerves to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. The sound enters the outer layer and passes through the middle ear where the waves make the eardrum vibrate. These vibrations are then transmitted through tiny bones in the middle ears called ossicles to the inner ear. In the inner ear these vibrations move through the cochlea which contains hair cells. These hair cells are the ones responsible for converting sound waves into nerve impulses which are carried to the brain through nerves. Any dysfunction in any of these three layers of the ear can result in hearing impairment and Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is one such dysfunction.
What are the Causes of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis?
The exact etiology of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is not exactly known although it is believed to have a genetic link to it which means that Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is considered to be a hereditary disease. Thus, an individual who has a parent with Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is likely to develop Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis also. In case if both parents have this condition, then there is about 50% chance that the offspring will have this condition as well. Some studies suggest that there is a link between Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis and pregnancy while other studies suggest a viral cause for Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis like measles.
Can Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis Cause Hearing Impairment?
The answer to this question is yes. In fact any abnormality within the ear may result in hearing impairment and Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is no exception but the degree of hearing loss depends on the structure which is affected the most by this abnormal growth of bone called Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis. Usually, Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis affects the last bone in the middle ear and interferes with the passing of sound waves into the inner ear which in turn affects the hearing of an individual.
What are the Symptoms of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis?
The classic presenting feature of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis is hearing loss which gets progressive over time. An individual with Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis will first find it hard to hear low pitched sounds but as the disease progresses, they start to have problems hearing normal conversations also. Apart from hearing loss, people with Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis may also have dizziness, balance problems, and tinnitus.
How is Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis Diagnosed?
To diagnose Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis, a consultation with an otologist is required who try to figure out a cause for the hearing impairment and rule out other disease condition that may have similar symptoms. The physician will conduct a battery of tests to find out a cause for the symptoms. An audiogram will also be done to test the hearing of an individual. Another tests called as tympanogram will also be done which tests the functioning of the inner ear to try to identify a cause of the condition and this test will definitively throw results pointing towards an abnormality in the inner ear which when further studied through various tests and radiological studies will confirm a diagnosis of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis.
What is the Treatment for Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis?
For severe cases of Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis, surgery is recommended for restoration of sound. The surgery conducted in called as stapedectomy in which the surgeon bypasses the diseased bone by way of a prosthetic device which then allows the sound waves to go through to the inner ear without any interference from the disease bone but it is important to discuss all the risks and benefits of the procedure before proceeding with the surgery, as in some cases the surgery has caused worsening of the condition. For mild hearing loss, surgery is not a viable option and for such cases a hearing aid is quite effective in restoring hearing. A consultation with an audiologist is required here who will prescribe the best suited hearing aid for the individual so as to restore hearing after the hearing loss caused due to Otosclerosis or Otospongiosis.