Meniere’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear. It causes symptoms such as vertigo, hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and a feeling of pressure in the ear. Hearing loss is often intermittent, occurring mainly at the time of the attacks of vertigo. Loud sounds may seem distorted and cause discomfort. The hearing loss involves mainly the lower pitches, but over time this often affects tones of all pitches. After months or years of the disease, hearing loss can become permanent.
Meniere’s disease typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50, and men and women are equally afflicted.
Although the cause is unknown, Meniere’s disease may result from an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear. Too much fluid may accumulate either due to excess production or inadequate absorption. In some individuals, especially those with both ears affected, allergies and autoimmune disorders may be the cause. Other factors, such as fatigue and stress, can also influence the frequency of attacks.
Because Meniere’s disease affects each person differently, your doctor will suggest strategies to help reduce your symptoms and work with you to identify the best treatment option. Although there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, the attacks of vertigo can be controlled in nearly all cases. Treatment may include:
- A low-salt diet and a diuretic (water pill)
- Anti-vertigo medications
- Injections into the middle ear
- An air pressure pulse generator
If vertigo attacks are disabling and are not controlled by conservative measures, your doctor may recommend one of the following surgical procedures:
- Endolymphatic sac shunt or decompression procedure relieves attacks of vertigo in one-half to two-thirds of cases, and the sensation of ear fullness is often improved.
- Selective vestibular neurectomy is a procedure in which the balance nerve is severed as it leaves the inner ear and goes to the brain.
- Labyrinthectomy and eighth nerve section are procedures in which the balance and hearing mechanism in the inner ear is removed in one ear.