Otosclerosis is a condition in which motion of the third bone of the ear, the stapes bone, becomes impaired. The stapes bone usually acts as a piston to transfer the vibration of the eardrum to the inner ear. When this piston mechanism is not working properly, hearing is lost. The piston action can no longer work during otosclerosis when the cylinder-like sides of the oval window and the piston-like stapes bone become fused together. The fused bone then results in a “conductive” hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss means that the bones or the eardrum are having problems. Otosclerosis causes the stapes bone to lose function and results in a conductive hearing loss.
The treatment for otosclerosis involves either amplifying sound with a hearing aid or surgically replacing the stapes bone. Treatment with a hearing aid overcomes the problem by amplifying the sound beyond what has been lost due to the impaired stapes bone. Patients with conductive hearing losses, such as otosclerosis, have excellent understanding with a hearing aid. The reason is that the underlying nerve function is normal. Treatment by surgery overcomes the problem by replacing the impaired stapes bone. The surgery is done through the ear canal with a microscope and micro-instruments. A small hole is drilled with a laser into the stapes bone footplate. Thereafter, an artificial prosthesis is placed into the small hole to replace of the actual bone. This surgery has been successfully performed by Otologists on a regular basis since the 1960's. Regular activities including air flight and scuba-diving may be done after the surgery. The surgery is usually performed as an outpatient. To allow for healing, there is no heavy lifting for at least ten days.