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The middle ear consists of the eardrum and a chamber which contains three bones called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup (or stapes). Sound waves passing through the ear cause the ear drum to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted to the inner ear by the three bones. In the inner ear, the vibrations are changed into impulses which are carried by the nerves, to the brain. If excessive bone growth interferes with the stapes ability to vibrate and transmit sound waves, hearing loss will result.

Otosclerosis is classified as a conductive disorder because it involves the bones of the ear, which conduct the sound to the nerve. If a person has hearing loss classified as neural, the nerve conducting the impulses to the brain is involved.

Otosclerosis is a common hereditary condition. About 10% of the caucasion population has some form of otosclerosis, however, it is rare among other ethnic backgrounds. Women are more likely than men to suffer from otosclerosis. It is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss between the ages of 15-50, but if the bony growth affects only the hammer or anvil, there are no symptoms and the condition goes undetected. Disease affecting the stapes is also associated with progressive hearing loss.

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