Broken down, the word otosclerosis is a derivative of two Greek words, “sclero,” meaning hard and “oto,” meaning ear. This term describes a condition based on the abnormal growth of the tiny bones found in the middle ear. When these tiny bones are adversely affected, it leads to a fixation of the stapes bone. In order for the ear to function properly and allow one to hear well, the stapes bone has to move freely.
For proper hearing, the sound vibrations that are brought from the outer ear into the ear canal cause the movement of the ear drum that then moves to the three smaller bones of the inner ear. These bones are called the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup, medically known as the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. When the stapes bone moves, the inner ear fluids are then put into motion, which begin the process of stimulating the hearing nerve. This nerve will then transfer the sound energy to the brain, allowing a person to hear what is known as sound. If any part of this process is compromised, then hearing can be impaired.
So, who can get otosclerosis, and why does it happen? Estimates show that roughly ten percent of the adult Caucasian population suffers from otosclerosis. It is less commonly seen those of Japanese ethnicity and in South Americans. It is also quite rare in the African-American segment of the population. The most commonly affected people are middle-aged, Caucasian women.
The defining symptom of this condition begins with a gradual hearing loss, which can start anywhere between the ages of 15 and 45, but it usually begins in one’s 20s. It can occur in both men and women and is a bigger issue for pregnant women who, for reasons not readily known, frequently suffer from a decrease in hearing ability. About 60 percent of otosclerosis cases are genetic in nature.
Other tell-tale symptoms include dizziness, problems with sustaining balance, and a ringing, roaring, buzzing, or hissing sensation in the ears or head, commonly referred to as tinnitus. Perhaps the individual might not be able to hear lower-pitched sounds or whispers.