This is a disorder of the inner ear which causes attacks of vertigo, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and fluctuating hearing loss.
Usually Ménière only affects one ear however and more unusually both may become affected. The most debilitating symptom is the loss of hearing, as after the initial fluctuations in hearing, this disease may cause permanent hearing loss leading to deafness. Unfortunately due to the deafness the tinnitus effect follows the same pattern, which can be very distressing.
What causes Ménière’s?
The exact cause is unknown, although it is thought that it may be due to the build up of fluid in the semicircular canals (the balance centre) and the body’s ability to regulate it. The build up causes pressure which goes hand in hand with the feeling of fullness in the ear. Other thoughts are that it is a viral infection which causes the damage.
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When you have a typical Ménière's attack it is preceded by fullness in the ear- sometimes hearing can fluctuate or tinnitus may be affected.
You can then experience combinations of:
- Severe vertigo (spinning),
- Nausea and vomiting.
The average attack can last between two to four hours, which completely exhausts you; most people find that they must sleep for several hours to recover. There is a large amount of variety in the times of the attacks and of the symptoms. Some people just have slight vertigo during an attack, while other people are really badly affected and are sick for hours.
Attacks of Ménière’s differ in as much as they may be frequent, as in 'clusters' of a number of attacks one after another, or happen only every few months or longer. Suffers can be sensitive to a variety of external stimulus such as bright lights, loud noises and changes in air pressure. These can seem troubling but not abnormal, and are often more of awareness rather than a hindrance to day to day living. Some people can go months or years without having an attack and are symptom free, others suffer periodic episodes throughout their lives; which has a huge impact on family and working life.
Unfortunately there is no cure for ménière’s however there are ways of managing the disease.
- Changing your diet- a low salt diet has been found to be helpful
- Medication to control your vertigo and sickness
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy –to help with balance problems
- Complimentary/alternative therapies- these can be helpful when seeking relaxation
- Counselling – this can be helpful if you are suffering from anxiety related to ménière’s
- Surgery- this is for severe cases where balance problems are so severe that surgery is indicated. This will be for you and your doctor to discuss as most of the surgical procedures carry the risk of profound deafness.
The Menière's Society can provide information on all aspects of Ménière’s, and can advise and support people with Ménière’s
The Ménière’s Society,
98 Maybury Road,
Telephone: 01483 740597
Textphone: 01483 771207
Fax: 01483 755441
Website: The Ménière’s Society
Please Note: The information provided here should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A medical practitioner should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.
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