Problems With Balance And Hearing? How To Recognize Meniere’s Disease

Vertigo. Ringing in the ear. Hearing loss. This triple whammy describes the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. It’s a disorder that may be related to an excess of fluid in your inner ear.

The disease has anguished popular musicians, including Ryan Adams, Kristin Chenoweth, and Huey Lewis, who cancelled performances in 2018 due to his struggles with Meniere’s disease.

What Are the Symptoms?

Meniere’s disease can pop up suddenly, with no warning. Symptoms typically last one to six hours, rarely longer. They include:

  • Sudden attacks of vertigo (the sensation of spinning or moving when you aren’t)
  • Hearing loss that comes and goes in the affected ear
  • Ringing in the affected ear (tinnitus)
  • Possibly nausea, vomiting, and ear pressure   

Although hearing loss fluctuates, in most cases it gets progressively worse over the years. It usually affects only one ear, and hearing loss is greatest in the lower sound frequencies (the rumbly sounds you ‘feel’ as much as you hear).

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Meniere’s disease requires a physical examination by a physician along with testing to confirm the diagnosis. Testing may include:

What Causes the Disease?

There are no definite answers to this question. People with Meniere’s disease have too much fluid in the inner ear. Some believe the disease results when blood vessels are constricted, which is similar to the cause of migraine headaches. Others believe it could be the result of viral infections, allergies, or autoimmune reactions. Because Meniere’s disease tends to run in families, it could be caused by a genetic defect.

The disease usually shows up in adulthood, between ages 40 and 60. But it can occur at any age.

How Is It Treated?

Although there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, these treatment methods are effective for many sufferers:

  • Medication to relieve vertigo
  • Limiting salt and taking diuretics. The combination of these two reduces the amount of fluid your body retains, including the fluid in your inner ear.
  • Limiting caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol. These substances are thought to make symptoms worse. Eliminating them from your diet can help.
  • Stopping smoking. This also lessens the symptoms for many.
  • Cognitive therapy. Many people find that “talk therapy” helps them develop new ways to cope with situations. You may find it helps you cope more effectively when symptoms strike.
  • Pressure pulses. Recently approved by the FDA, this device delivers air pressure pulses to your middle ear, which can prevent vertigo. The device gets fitted into your outer ear.
  • If the treatments above don’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend one of several procedures to reduce the fluid and pressure in your inner ear in order to reduce or eliminate vertigo. These procedures will not, however, prevent hearing loss.

If you think you or someone you know may have Meniere’s disease, talk with your doctor. Or, make an appointment with a physician at Premier ENT Associates to be examined by a specialist. Premier ENT Associates also offers in-house audiology for convenient on-site hearing tests.