Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear and a common causes of dizziness. Common symptoms include episodes of vertigo (spinning) that may come on without warning, typically lasting for hours, fullness or pressure in the ears, roaring or ringing in the ears, and hearing loss, particularly in the low frequencies, which may be fluctuating. The attacks may be mild or severe, and the you may feel perfectly normal between them. You may have nausea and vomiting. Often patients will have significant amounts of stress or anxiety from the attacks.

Meniere’s disease affects a part of the inner ear known as the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a system of tiny fluid-filled channels which send signals of sound and balance to the brain. Meniere’s disease causes the pressure in the labyrinth to build up, disrupting both hearing and balance. Vertigo is often the most troublesome symptom of Meniere’s disease and is described as a sensation of movement when no movement is occurring. The attacks may be incapacitating for several hours and the off-balance sensation may last for days.

While Meniere’s disease is not curable, it is usually treatable, and treatments are usually successful in at least mitigating the effects of the disorder. A low salt diet is recommended, and diuretics (water pills) may also be of value in controlling mild symptoms. Intratymanic perfusion, a therapy pioneered at the Shea Ear Clinic that involves injecting medication into the middle ear, may also help. This is usually performed with one or more medications, including steroids, streptomycin, or lidocaine, depending on the patient’s symptoms. Intratympanic perfusion with low-dose streptomycin reduces the sensitivity of the hair cells (balance receptors) without affecting hearing. The patient often has no more dizzy spells, although may continue to be unsteady, and the hearing may be improved and the fullness and noise in the ear may be less.