Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear that affects your balance and can cause hearing loss. It typically occurs in one ear, though people have experienced Meniere’s in both ears.
Unfortunately, researchers still don’t know the exact cause of Meniere’s disease. However, it’s believed to be triggered by excess pressure in the inner ear caused by fluid buildup.
Other causes include:
- Middle or inner ear infections
- Head injuries
- Stress, anxiety or fatigue
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- A family history of Meniere’s disease
- Viral infections
The organs in your inner ear control your hearing and balance, so you’re likely to experience symptoms like tinnitus, vertigo, dizziness and hearing loss. Your ears may also feel full or congested.
Episodes last anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on your stage of Meniere’s disease. They include:
Early: In this stage, you’re likely to experience sudden, random episodes of vertigo that last for several minutes or several hours. Your ears will feel blocked, and you may have some hearing loss, which eventually fades.
Middle: Vertigo becomes less severe as Meniere’s progresses, but hearing loss and tinnitus usually occur more frequently. You might experience several months of remission without any symptoms.
Late: Hearing loss and tinnitus continue to worsen during late-stage Meniere’s disease. Vertigo is not common, though it may crop up infrequently. You’re likely to feel imbalanced regularly.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Meniere’s disease is difficult to diagnose because it shares several symptoms with other conditions. An ENT doctor usually diagnoses Meniere’s based on a history of recurring episodes that include several of the previous symptoms.
While there is no cure for Meniere’s, several treatment options can help you cope with the condition.
- Sodium and diuretics: Eating high sodium foods will cause your body to retain water, which impacts the fluid in your ears. Ask your doctor about taking diuretics to treat excess water retention.
- Medication: Some drugs that treat dizziness have been known to ease the symptoms of Meniere’s. Steroid injections in the ear will also reduce inflammation that exacerbates the disease.
- Meditation: Stress management is key to reducing the effects of Meniere’s. Learning to regulate your emotional response to the disease lowers your risk for anxiety and depression. Lying down and concentrating on a single, immobile object eases the effects of dizziness.
- Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery if other treatment options have not improved your symptoms. Most procedures involve surgically relieving the pressure in your inner ear.