Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (dizziness) and intermittent hearing loss are three of the more recognizable signs of a condition known as “Meniere’s disease”. This disorder affects your inner ear, causing you to have symptoms that disrupt your balance and hearing. Although medical science hasn’t yet found a cure for this disorder, there are several steps you can take to decrease its symptoms and minimize its impact on your day-to-day life.
The symptoms of Meniere’s disease tend to occur in clusters of episodes. Individual episodes often share a common starting point, with a feeling of fullness in the ear that progresses to tinnitus and a small degree of hearing loss. Shortly after these symptoms begin, you may begin to suffer vertigo, a feeling of dizziness not unlike what you might experience after quickly spinning around several times. This dizziness may also come with nausea, vomiting and balance problems. An episode can be as short as twenty minutes and as long as four hours.
Many people who suffer from Meniere’s disease experience several such episodes in a short period of time with long periods of ‘remission’ in between. The frequency and severity of each symptom can vary from episode to episode. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions.
There is no clear cause of Meniere’s disease, but researchers theorize that abnormalities in the volume or composition of fluids in the inner ear may be to blame. Fluids in the inner ear must be at a certain volume and pressure in order to function properly. There are a number of factors that could trigger abnormalities in this inner ear fluid, including head trauma, viral infections, improper drainage and allergies.
Despite the fact that Meniere’s disease has no known cure, it’s symptoms can often be successfully managed. If you experience nausea during episodes of vertigo, your doctor may prescribe medications to help you feel more comfortable. Prescription medications that help reduce fluid retention can also help control the disease. Rehabilitation and hearing aids can help manage vertigo and hearing loss. Sitting or lying down immediately if you begin to notice vertigo can help you avoid falls, while avoiding triggers that make your symptoms worse (such as bright lights or reading) can help lessen the severity of the episode.
While the symptoms of Meniere’s disease can certainly pose challenges, the good news is that there are strategies for minimizing them so that patients suffering from this condition can live near-normal lives.