Inner Ear

Meniere's Disease

What is it?

A disorder of the inner ear – balance and hearing. The diagnosis requires all the signs and symptoms below to be present. All that spins is not Meniere’s! The clinical condition is characterised by intermittent attacks of these symptoms usually in one ear. Attacks typically last 2 – 4 hours but can be longer or shorter. It most commonly affects adults (women more than men) between ages of 35 and 55. The cause is not known.

Signs and Symptoms

  • hearing loss with sound distortion
  • tinnitus (ringing, buzzing)
  • severe attacks of vertigo – often accompanied with nausea and vomiting
  • ear fullness – this sensation of pressure often warns that an attack is beginning

First Episode

The person may have a sense of ear pressure accompanied by a low-pitched roaring or blowing sound. Slight hearing loss may be noticed. This lasts for hours or days and may dissappear only to return again. In full blown Meniere’s a violent attack usually with nausea and vomiting follows the onset of hearing loss and fullness by a day or two. It may last several hours up to several days! Then symptoms gradually subside. The nausea and vomiting may go first and the ear fullness, hearing loss and tinnitus may continue.

Ongoing Episodes

The course varies for each person. Some experience frequent severe attacks, some infrequent but clustered or sporadic. Over years episodes tend to decrease, become less severe and more easy to tolerate. The hearing tends to decrease with each episode. Some continue to have vertigo, some only imbalance and some none at all.

Helpers

Your doctor will be able to advise on things that will help with the episodes. Reducing salt intake and/or taking diuretic pills may reduce the pressure in the inner ear and hopefully reduce the symptoms for some patients. Serc (Betahistine) is a pill that increases the circulation to the inner ear to reduce the pressure. Seasick medications may also be tried. Stress management techniques are often found to be very helpful.