A disorder of the inner ear, Meniere’s disease can lead to dizzy spells (known as vertigo), ringing in the ears (called tinnitus) and hearing loss. While the disorder can occur at any age, it typically presents in young to middle-aged adults.
Causes of Meniere’s Disease
Experts are still unsure of the exact cause of this disorder. They believe the symptoms occur as a direct result of an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear, which can be caused by:
- Improper drainage from a blockage or abnormal anatomy
- Abnormal immune response
- Viral infection
Most likely, the disease is caused by a combination of factors, which is why no single cause has been able to be identified.
Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
Common symptoms include:
- Recurring episodes of vertigo
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
These symptoms will start and stop spontaneously and can last from twenty minutes to several hours. Severe episodes of vertigo can cause nausea.
In a recent interview, musician Huey Lewis opened up about his experience with the disease and his struggles with depression. After being diagnosed in 2018, Lewis reports feeling suicidal, saying the disease “ruined everything.”
“In the first two months of this, I was suicidal,” he said. “I can’t hear music. It’s hard enough to hear speech. But music is impossible … I can actually get better sometimes, where I think ‘Oh my gosh, I can almost sing.’ And I have sung twice in the last two years, when my hearing was better. And I sang one song acoustically. But I couldn’t do it for a set.”
Lewis said that while he’s still creating new work, the diagnosis has changed things for him. “It affects everything. And when my hearing is good, it feels so good to have good hearing. I just thank my lucky stars and just hope and pray that it stabilizes, which it never does.”
Managing the Disease
While Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition, there are a number of treatment options that can help relieve symptoms and minimize its impact on your daily life.
Motion sickness and anti-nausea medication can be taken during a vertigo episode to lessen the severity. A diuretic can help reduce fluid retention.
Limiting your sodium intake can help reduce your symptoms, especially when combined with a diuretic. A low-sodium diet is not an exact science, and the upper limit for how much you should consume varies from person to person. Talk with your doctor to discuss a plan.
Vestibular rehabilitation can help improve your balance.
These devices can improve your hearing when used in the ear affected by the disease.
Positive Pressure Therapy
This therapy can help improve the symptoms of vertigo and tinnitus. It involves applying pressure to the middle ear to lessen fluid buildup.
Middle Ear Injections
Medication such as gentamicin (an antibiotic) or steroids are injected into the middle ear to reduce vertigo.
This option is only recommended for those with severe and debilitating episodes of vertigo who have not experienced relief through other treatment methods. Procedures include:
- Endolymphatic sac procedure
- Vestibular nerve section
If you are experiencing symptoms of Meniere’s disease, schedule an appointment with the experts at Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery. We can help you get the treatment you need to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.