Otosclerosis, which affects more than three million Americans, is caused by an abnormal growth of sponge-like bone in the middle ear. Many cases of otosclerosis are thought to be inherited. It affects approximately 10% of the adult Caucasian population but is rare in African Americans. On average, a person who has one parent with otosclerosis has a 25 percent chance of developing the disorder. If both parents have otosclerosis, the risk goes up to 50 percent.

Otolaryngologists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provide comprehensive services and innovative care for patients with otosclerosis as well as other types of hearing loss.

Otosclerosis Topics

Causes of Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is most often caused when one of the bones in the middle ear, the stapes, becomes stuck in place due to the abnormal bone growth. When this bone is unable to vibrate, sound is unable to travel through the ear and hearing becomes impaired.

The hallmark of otosclerosis is a slowly worsening ability to hear.

Symptoms of Otosclerosis
  • Gradual, progressive hearing loss
  • Dizziness and balance problems may occur
  • Tinnitus
Risk Factors for Otosclerosis
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Caucasian
  • Female
  • Middle age and older
  • Pregnancy
Diagnosis of Otosclerosis

A Brigham and Women’s Hospital otolaryngologist will first conduct a thorough medical history and physical examination to rule out other diseases or health problems that can cause the same symptoms as otosclerosis.

Next steps will include hearing tests that measure hearing sensitivity (audiogram) and middle-ear sound conduction (tympanogram). Acoustic reflexes are also performed as part of the hearing test. Typical findings on these hearing test include low-frequency conductive hearing loss and absent acoustic reflexes.

Sometimes, imaging test, such as a CT-scan, are also used to diagnose otosclerosis.

Learn more about other types of hearing loss and how our specialists treat those conditions.

Treatment for Otosclerosis

Mild hearing loss due to otosclerosis can be improved with a hearing aid that amplifies sound, but surgery is sometimes required. The Division of Otolaryngology offers a stapedectomy microsurgery to address otosclerosis.


Our otolaryngologists perform stapedectomy microsurgery to address otosclerosis. In a healthy ear, the stapes footplate (located in the middle ear) is somewhat mobile. Conductive hearing loss usually occurs if the stapes footplate remains in a fixed position. A stapedectomy removes the stapes bone and replaces it with a micro-prosthesis resulting in generally improved hearing. It is most reliable in patients whose stapes have lost mobility because of otosclerosis.

It is important to discuss any surgical procedure with an ear specialist to clarify potential risks and limitations of the operation.

What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have otosclerosis and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced otolaryngologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by otolaryngologist, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with otosclerosis. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay, patient-centered care and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care by collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community, with its diverse specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities.


Read more about other types of hearing disorders in our health library.

Learn more about otosclerosis from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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