Investigation of a possible viral etiology for otosclerosis was initiated because of the clinical and histopathologic similarities between otosclerosis and Paget's disease of bone and the mounting evidence of a viral etiology in Paget's disease. Thus far, ultrastructural and immunohistochemical studies have revealed measles-like structures and antigens in active otosclerotic lesions. A method for isolation and identification of both DNA and RNA sequences in archival human temporal bone specimens using the polymerase chain reaction technique has been developed. With use of this technique, a 115-base pair sequence of the measles nucleocapsid gene has been identified in 8 of 11 different temporal bone specimens with histologic evidence of otosclerosis. Zero of nine control specimens without histologic evidence of otosclerosis were positive. The association between the presence of the measles nucleocapsid gene sequence and histologic otosclerosis was significant (p < 0.01). This study provides further evidence for a possible measles virus etiology in otosclerosis.