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A stapedectomy is a surgery performed on the ear when certain conditions are present that cause hearing loss. It is principally used if a person has a dysfunction of the stapes bone, one of three bones in the middle ear that helps to conduct sound. Sometimes a condition called otosclerosis can cause abnormal growth in the stapes, which affects its ability to vibrate and damages hearing. When this condition occurs, but all other hearing systems are unaffected, stapedectomy might be considered as a means to improve hearing.
Stapedectomy is not a new surgery and has been executed successfully since the 1950s. As stated, it will not cure all types of hearing and can only address problems occurring with the stapes bone. It does so by removing the bone, or a portion of it. This vital hearing component is replaced by a tiny prosthetic device, which will perform the necessary vibration.
People undergoing stapedectomy may experience some variety in how the procedure is performed. Some surgeons prefer to do this surgery while a patient is semi-conscious or under conscious sedation. It is typically more common for patients to have this surgery done under general anesthesia, but each surgeon may make this decision individually depending on the health or a person and any other conditions that might be present. The ear surgery may be an inpatient or outpatient procedure, depending on doctor preference and patient response to anesthesia. Usually patients go home within a couple of days of the procedure, but will need follow-up to assess hearing changes.
Success rate of stapedectomy is fairly high, with approximately 90% of patients experiencing recovery of hearing to a significant extent. Some patients may not do quite as well, and only get partial hearing recovery. Small percentages, usually about 1-2%, of people who get this surgery actually end up with worsened hearing. This statistical information is an average of people who have this surgery, and while valuable, it cannot be used to predict individual response to the surgery.
There are some potential complications of stapedectomy. In rare instances people may develop labyrinthitis or chronic dizziness that occurs due to the ears. Other extremely rare complications include partial paralysis of the face or persistent ringing in the ears. More common is a slight change in taste sensation, and some people might note a metallic taste in the mouth. This side effect may gradually cease, though some patients continue to have problems with it.
There is one alternative to stapedectomy. A hearing aid may help restore some hearing in the ear/ears to those with otosclerosis. However, stapedectomy is often preferred because it may permanently restore some hearing.