Otosclerosis is a heredity disease that leads to an overgrowth of bone in the ear. When it occurs in the middle ear, it can block sound from entering the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss. Many patients with otosclerosis also suffer from tinnitus.
However, unlike many forms of hearing loss, the majority of the loss in otosclerosis can be corrected by a surgical procedure that replaces the damaged bones of the middle ear with a prosthetic device. When the hearing of otosclerosis patients is surgically restored, the majority report that their tinnitus has either disappeared or greatly improved. This finding suggests that restoration of hearing by hair cell regeneration, may well lead to reduction in or elimination of tinnitus.
Allen F. Ryan, Ph.D., is a professor and the director of research in the Division of Otolaryngology in the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine in La Jolla.