Not all hearing loss and inner ear issues are consistent or predictable. Bouts of vertigo that come and go spontaneously, accompanied by mild to moderate hearing loss and/or tinnitus may be signs of Meniere’s disease, a chronic condition that can interrupt your normal lifestyle. Fortunately, diagnosis and treatment for Meniere’s are available through appointments with the clinical audiologists at New York Hearing Doctors.
Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that affects the function of the inner ear, responsible not only for aspects of hearing but also balance. Although it can occur in both ears, Meniere’s disease often only affects one ear. It typically appears in adults between the ages of 40–50 and comes as attacks of symptoms that last less than 24 hours and can span years between episodes.
Originally identified in 1861, the cause of Meniere’s disease is disputed among researchers. The prevailing theory is that for any number of reasons, an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear disrupts the systems of balance and hearing, causing the symptoms experienced during an attack of the disease. Possible factors that affect the amount of this fluid are genetics, viral infection, immune response, or a blockage that prevents fluid from draining properly.
Symptoms experienced during an episode of Meniere’s disease are:
- Dizziness (vertigo)
- Hearing loss
- Tinnitus (constant ringing or rushing sound)
- Pressure or fullness feeling in the ear
Attacks of these symptoms, in combination or by themselves, can last anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. Sometimes, these attacks can come on suddenly, in some cases causing “drop falls,” or sudden shifts in balance sensation that cause patients to rapidly shift their weight and fall. Other times, attacks are more gradual, resulting in prolonged feelings of unsteadiness.
In combination with the right set of symptoms reported, we will diagnose Meniere’s disease through a series of tests, usually including a hearing test and a balance test.
Because Meniere’s disease occurs spontaneously and unpredictably, treatments are most focused on mitigating the attacks themselves. However, for frequent, severe, and/or debilitating episodes, we may prescribe medications to reduce nausea and dizziness, or to regulate the amount of fluid in the inner ear.
Some research suggests that changes to diet or lifestyle can help reduce the severity of attacks of Meniere’s disease. Reducing salt and caffeine intake can lower the severity of attacks or prevent them from happening as often. In addition, quitting smoking and practicing good stress management may help reduce the severity of attacks, as Meniere’s is often correlated to elevated anxiety and stress levels.
Meniere’s disease can be more than just a nuisance; it can be debilitating. If these symptoms apply to your experience, a clear diagnosis and personalized treatment plan can go a long way toward getting you back on your feet. Schedule an appointment with the expert audiologists at New York Hearing Doctors today and start getting the care and treatment for Meniere’s disease you need.