Managing Meniere’s disease can be really challenging. However, the right exercise program combined with a customized treatment plan can make living with Meniere’s disease easier.
Do you feel like you are spinning even if you’re just sitting down? Do you experience bouts of dizziness and nausea? You may have Meniere’s disease, an inner ear condition that can cause vertigo (a certain type of dizziness that makes affected individuals feel like they’re spinning). Aside from dizziness, the most common symptoms of Meniere’s disease include ringing in the ear, feeling pressure in the ear, and hearing loss.
As of now, the main cause and a cure for Meniere’s disease have not yet been established. However, various medical advancements and research studies have opened new doors for intervention and management of Meniere’s disease.
Meniere’s disease affects one out of every 20,000 people worldwide. This condition manifests between the ages of 20-50 with the onset of symptoms like hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or pressure in the head, which is sometimes accompanied by pain or discomfort. In most cases of Meniere’s disease, only one ear is affected. Loss of hearing brought about by Meniere’s disease may become permanent if left untreated.
Meniere’s disease was named for the French physician, Prosper Meniere, who discovered the condition in the 1860s. Yes, you read that right – it has been well over a century since Meniere’s disease was discovered but doctors are still baffled by what exactly causes the condition.
Diagnosing Meniere’s disease can be tricky. While the cause of the condition is still unknown, doctors do have ideas on possible triggers of Meniere’s disease.
One of the most common possible triggers of Meniere’s disease is fluid buildup in a certain part of the inner ear, called the labyrinth. The labyrinth houses the structures of the ear responsible for hearing and balance. When there is excess fluid in the labyrinth, the signals sent to the brain may become distorted, possibly causing vertigo and other hearing related problems like tinnitus or hearing loss.
Meniere’s disease is a progressive condition which means that it can start gradually with minor symptoms and eventually worsen to a full blown condition. One of the worst symptoms of Meniere’s disease is vertigo. It can increase a patient’s risk of accidents and falls.
Vertigo attacks can have a duration as short as 20 minutes or as long as 24 hours. In most cases, vertigo episodes last for about 10-12 hours after the initial onset. The severity and frequency of vertigo episodes is unique for each person. One might experience several attacks in a week, while others could go months without having one – and when they do have one, the severity can be quite alarming.
As Meniere’s disease progresses, the symptoms may also increase. Hearing loss and tinnitus may become difficult to overcome. Problems with vision or balance might also emerge.
It is important to point out that symptoms of Meniere’s disease may manifest alone or simultaneously. The key is to not be complacent. If you think that you or a family member may have Meniere’s disease, schedule an appointment with a medical professional right away. Assuming that this condition will get better on its own is not a good strategy. Left untreated, the result may instead be an increase in symptoms.
Below are some of the series of diagnostic evaluations that may be carried out to check your balance and hearing:
An audiometric examination is given to patients who would like to confirm if they have hearing loss and receive interventions as needed. Audiometric tests determine one’s ability to hear a range of sounds through testing the speech discrimination in the left and right ears. Through the exam, we can identify which sound pitches you are unable to receive well and what degree of deafness or imbalance needs attention or supplementation.
Tests using this device can evaluate balance and look for red flags in vestibular functions. In this test, patients will be placed in a dark room and their eye movements will be monitored as cool and warm air blows through the ear canal.
This is a painless test to check and diagnose balance disorders. VEMP waves are tiny electrical signals produced by the small muscles that surround and protect the sensory organs in the inner ear. The vibrations form patterns and such patterns can be checked by sophisticated computer software that can measure physical representation of one’s sense of balance.
An ABR test monitors the brainstem response to sounds. It can determine what part of the inner and outer ear can be maximized for hearing, how a patient can hear different types of sounds, and whether or not there’s a problem in the hearing process. This type of test is usually used for individuals who can’t have other types of hearing tests (like infants) or who can not have imaging tests.
Doctors may also recommend a CT scan or an MRI to rule out any condition that might be causing Meniere’s disease and/or its symptoms.
Unfortunately, Meniere’s disease can be debilitating. However, with the right intervention and course of treatments, living with and overcoming Meniere’s disease is possible. Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center offers a variety of tests and solutions to make sure that you are getting the best treatment for Meniere’s disease. Below are some Meniere’s disease interventions used widely around the world:
There are oral medications to control and prevent vertigo symptoms (dizziness and vomiting). Numerous types of oral medications are available to help with motion sickness, such as scopolamine patches. Antihistamines may also control vomiting and nausea.
Since Meniere’s disease may be triggered by excess fluid accumulation in the ears, a diuretic is a potential treatment option. Lowering the amount of sodium in your body reduces fluid accumulation and may improve the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet may also be helpful.
Steroids can reduce inflammation in and around the middle ear. In some cases, taking steroids may be the best treatment for Meniere’s disease. If an underlying immune system problem (lupus, hypothyroidism, sarcoidosis or Sjogren’s syndrome) is linked to Meniere’s disease, steroids may be considered.
Managing Meniere’s disease can be really challenging. However, the right exercise program combined with a customized treatment plan can make living with Meniere’s disease easier. Guidance from experts who specialize in vestibular disorders can greatly help patients dealing with Meniere’s disease.
This treatment may be recommended for patients who have balance problems due to lack of sensory input. With VRT, a customized treatment plan is provided which may involve conditioning the brain to receive sensory feedback from the senses it usually ignores. Think of it as a re-learning process to condition the brain to respond as it should.
This is an ear-based therapy that utilizes a device to apply pressure on the ear canal. A Meniett device can help improve fluid movements in the ear and can restore normal function faster for individuals suffering from vertigo or hearing loss.
For patients who don’t respond to any of the treatments mentioned above, surgery may be the best option. Such procedures include Labyrinthectomy, Endolymphatic sac shunt surgery, Vestibular nerve sectioning, and Cochleosacculotomy.
Meniere’s disease symptoms are not something that should be ignored (in most cases, they are actually difficult to ignore). There can be many potential causes for the symptoms and a correct diagnosis is needed to ensure that your health concerns are addressed appropriately.
Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center has expert audiologists that can diagnose and provide solutions for hearing loss, tinnitus, and other vestibular problems related to Meniere’s disease.