About one in ten Americans, most often an adult of Caucasian ancestry, experiences a strange, insidious, spongy bony overgrowth called otosclerosis or otospongiosis. It starts in the middle ear and in about 80% of cases affects both ears, sometimes impairing hearing and even the vestibular mechanism.
Some aspects of this disorder have been recognized for more than 250 years. For example, the early 18th-century anatomist Antonio Maria Valsalva observed that spongification can immobilize the stapes by creating a bony bridge to the fenestra vestibuli (oval window), into which the stapes' footplate fits.
Nevertheless, many questions still are unanswered, and only now is the disorder beginning to yield its secrets. This became clear recently at a state of the art conference on labyrinthine otospongiosis, conducted in Lake Bluff, Ill, by the National Hearing Association and chaired by Jack L. Pulec, MD, Los Angeles.
Data reported suggest that the disorder is more