Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that is characterized by episodes of a spinning sensation, similar to feeling dizzy. It could sometimes be accompanied with ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or hearing loss. Typically, only one ear is affected; however, over time, both ears can become involved. Each episodes generally last from 20 minutes to a few hours, and the time between episodes varies. Hearing loss and ringing in the ears can become constant over time.
The cause of Meniere’s disease is still unknown, but it probably involves genetic and environmental factors. A number of theories exist as to why it occurs, including constrictions in blood vessels, viral infections and autoimmune reactions. About 10% of cases are hereditary. Symptoms are believed to occur as a result of increased accumulation of fluid in the inner ear labyrinth. The diagnosis is based on symptoms and, frequently, on a hearing test. Other conditions that can produce similar symptoms include vestibular migraine and transient ischemic attack.
There is no cure for Meniere’s Disease. Attacks are often treated with medication to relieve nausea and anxiety. The measures to prevent the attacks are generally poorly supported by evidence. A low-salt diet, diuretics and corticosteroids can be tried. Physiotherapy can help with balance and counseling can help with anxiety. Injections into the ear or surgery may also be attempted if other measures are not effective but are associated with risks. The use of tympanostomy tubes, although popular, is not supported.
Meniere’s disease was first identified in the early 1800s by Prosper Meniere. It affects between 0.3 and 1.9 per 1,000 people. It most often begins in people aged 40 to 60. Women are more frequently affected than men. After 5 to 15 years of symptoms, episodes of unbalancedness usually stops and the person is left with a slight loss of balance, moderately poor hearing in the affected ear and ringing in the ear .
Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
Meniere is characterized by recurrent episodes of vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus; episodes may be accompanied by a headache and a feeling of blocked ears.
People may also experience additional symptoms related to irregular reactions of the autonomic nervous system. These symptoms are not symptoms of Meniere’s disease per se, but rather side effects resulting from a breakdown in the organ of hearing and balance, which includes nausea, vomiting and sweating – typical symptoms of vertigo and not Meniere’s. This includes a feeling of being suddenly pushed to the ground from behind.
Some people may experience sudden falls without loss of consciousness.
Two or more spontaneous episodes of vertigo lasting 20 minutes to 12 hours each.
Low to medium frequency neurosensory hearing loss is documented by audiometry in the affected ear at least 1 time before, during or after one of the episodes of vertigo.
Two or more episodes of vertigo or dizziness, each lasting 20 minutes to 24 hours
Fluctuating aural symptoms in the reported ear.