There are many conditions that can affect your ears and your hearing. One of them is Ménière’s disease, which affects between 600,000 and 750,000 people in the United States, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.
Ménière’s disease is a disorder that can cause a variety of symptoms, including severe dizziness and hearing loss.
Because it is somewhat uncommon, Ménière’s disease can go undiagnosed. Fortunately, the care providers at Sharp Hearing Care Professionals have expertise in identifying, diagnosing, and treating Ménière’s disease and a wide range of other conditions that can affect your ears and hearing.
To gain a better understanding of Ménière’s disease, Dr. Kevin Sharim and his team of audiologists and hearing aid specialists would like to share some helpful facts with you about this disorder.
A disorder of the inner ear
Ménière’s disease affects the inner ear of one or both ears. It is caused by a buildup of fluid deep within the ear canal, in an area known as the labyrinth. Structures in the labyrinth play an important role in balance and hearing.
Although it can develop at any age, Ménière’s disease is most likely to occur in people between the ages of 40 and 60, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. It affects women and men equally.
Scientists aren't really sure why Ménière’s disease develops. Some possibilities include autoimmune reactions, allergies, viral infections, or genetic predispositions.
Ménière’s disease can cause a range of symptoms, including one or more of the following:
- Ear congestion or a feeling of fullness in the inner ear
- Hearing loss
- Muted hearing
- Severe dizziness (vertigo)
- Tinnitus (a ringing or roaring sound in the ears)
Severe bouts of dizziness
When people with Ménière’s disease experience dizziness, it may come on so suddenly that it causes them to lose their balance and fall. This is referred to as a "drop attack."
Dizziness may remain for a while – as long as a day – or it may come and go. It may cause motion sickness-type nausea.
Vertigo is a primary symptom of Ménière’s disease. Left untreated, it can have a major impact on your quality of life, mental health, and safety.
Diagnosing Ménière’s disease
To determine whether you have Ménière’s disease, your care provider begins by asking you about your symptoms. You also receive a hearing test to evaluate the extent of your hearing loss.
Your provider may recommend additional testing, such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to learn more about your condition and to rule out other disorders. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) for further evaluation.
Treating Ménière’s disease
There is no cure for Ménière’s disease. However, various treatments can be used to help manage your symptoms. The type of treatment you receive depends on the type and extent of symptoms you have. Treatments may include:
- A low-salt diet to help minimize fluid buildup
- Antibiotic injections
- Anti-nausea or anti-motion sickness medication
- Diuretics (water pills) to reduce fluid buildup in your body
- Medication to address depression or anxiety that results from vertigo
- Medication to reduce dizziness
- Steroid medications
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy, a type of physical therapy that helps with balance
Some people with Ménière’s disease find that certain situations trigger vertigo attacks. These may include stress, consuming specific foods or drinks (alcohol, caffeine, salt), fatigue, emotional distress, tobacco use, and changes in air pressure.
By becoming aware of your triggers, you may be able to avoid them and reduce your vertigo.
Although Ménière’s disease cannot be cured, treating symptoms such as vertigo can allow you to live a full, enjoyable life even with the disorder. Be sure to tell your provider about any symptoms you have – including depression or anxiety – so they can be treated and managed.
Care for all your hearing needs
If you are experiencing hearing loss, vertigo, or any other ear- or hearing-related symptoms, Dr. Sharim and our team at Sharp Hearing Care Professionals invite you to make an appointment for an evaluation. We provide a full range of services and solutions, including hearing evaluations, hearing tests, audiology consultations, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and custom earmolds.
To schedule an appointment with our care team, contact one of our offices, which are conveniently located in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, West Hills, and Santa Monica, California.