Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that affects the inner ear. It usually only affects one ear but can produce a number of unpleasant symptoms, including vertigo (dizziness) and hearing loss, which can have a significant impact on overall quality of life.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not fully understood, but it is thought to be associated with an abnormal amount of fluid (endolymph) in the inner ear. There are a number of factors that are thought to contribute to Meniere’s disease, which can include:
- Poor fluid drainage, possibly caused by a blockage or anatomical abnormality
- An abnormal immune response
- A family history of the disorder
- A viral infection, such as meningitis
Migraines, allergies, or a head injury are also thought to increase the risk of developing the condition.
What Are the Signs?
Meniere’s disease can start at any age, but it often occurs between young and middle-aged adulthood. The condition can cause a number of symptoms, but the main signs of the disease include:
- Recurrent episodes of vertigo. Vertigo is the sensation that you or everything around you is moving or spinning, and it’s more than just feeling dizzy. This spinning sensation starts and stops spontaneously and episodes often occur without warning. It can affect balance and, in severe cases, can cause nausea and vomiting. An episode of vertigo can last 20 minutes to several hours, but usually does not last more than 24 hours.
- Hearing loss. Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss. However, in the early stages of the disease, hearing loss may come and go.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear). Tinnitusis when you hear noises that are not the result of your environment or an outside source. It can sound like a ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing, or roaring sound.
Other symptoms can include a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear and tiredness and fatigue following an episode of symptoms. Although symptoms can vary from person to person, an episode of hearing loss without vertigo is uncommon. Frequency of episodes can vary and may happen in clusters or occur several times per week. Episodes may be separated by weeks, months, or even years. These unpredictable episodes of vertigo, which along with the prospect of permanent hearing loss, can make living with the condition extremely difficult. It can unexpectedly interrupt life and cause emotional stress.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is important to get a correct diagnosis before attempting treatment as a number of conditions and illnesses can cause similar symptoms. An ENT specialist can conduct an examination to diagnose Meniere’s disease, which assesses the level of hearing loss, function of the inner ear, and balance. A diagnosis of the disease requires:
- Two episodes of vertigo that each last 20 minutes or longer but do not exceed 12 hours
- Tinnitus/fullness in the ears
- Hearing loss confirmed by a hearing assessment
- Exclusion of other disorders/causes of symptoms
Although there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, there are a number of treatments available to help reduce the severity and frequency of vertigo symptoms. These can include motion sickness medication, anti-nausea medication, a combination of diuretics and limiting salt intake, and other noninvasive therapies such as vestibular rehabilitation, a hearing aid, and positive pressure therapy.
Treatment for Ear and Hearing Disorders in Georgetown, Texas
If you are experiencing an ear problem such as hearing loss, balance problems, pain, or ringing in your ears, speak to the highly qualified, experienced, and caring ENT specialists at Georgetown ENT. We provide a wide variety of ear, nose, and throat diagnostic and treatment services for patients of all ages. For more information, call our office today at (512) 869-0604 or request an appointment online.