Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance. Individuals often experience recurring episodes of dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, aural fullness. Meniere’s disease most commonly affects only one ear and is thought to be the result of an increase in volume and pressure of the fluid (endolymph)in the inner ear.
What Causes Ménière’s Disease?
The exact cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown. It can be associated with dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac, an organ responsible for regulating fluid volume and pressure in the inner ear. Various theories point to circulation disorders, viral infections, head trauma, allergies, and migraines as possible causes.
What Are the Symptoms of Ménière’s Disease?
People with Ménière’s disease experience episodes of vertigo that can last for minutes to hours. The vertigo is typically accompanied by fluctuating hearing loss, fullness in the ear, and tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ear). Other associated symptoms may include anxiety, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting.
The frequency of vertiginous episodes with Meniere’s disease is unpredictable and sporadic; they may occur several times a week, or as little as once every few years. Due to the unpredictable nature of this disease, it’s difficult to predict the impact on one’s lifestyle.
How Is Ménière’s Disease Diagnosed?
Because the symptoms of Ménière’s disease resemble those associated with other conditions, a comprehensive case history, along with hearing and balance tests are necessary in order to make a definitive diagnosis. An audiogram will commonly show hearing loss in the low frquencies, a key indicator of Ménière’s disease.
How Is Ménière’s Disease Treated?
Medical options for treating Ménière’s disease include medications for motion sickness and nausea, diuretics,and oral or injectable steroids. These, coupled with a low-sodium diet, can help prevent dizziness or reduce the severity of episodes. Other helpful lifestyle modifications include limiting caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and monosodium glutamate from the diet.
One may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation to improve balance. Hearing aids can help treat the hearing loss associated with Ménière’s disease. More aggressive treatment options may be appropriate from individuals who cannot find relief from more traditional treatments.