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Meniere's Disease

Meniere’s disease typically affects just one ear and is classified as a chronic condition; however, proper treatment and possibly even a few lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. 

Boots Hearingcare takes a look at the ins and outs of Meniere’s disease, including how best to handle its effects and maintain a good quality of life.

What are the symptoms?

People aged between 20 and 60 are more susceptible to a particular condition. Recognizing symptoms early can be crucial for timely intervention, especially for the preservation of hearing health.

Common indications include:

  • Sensation of pressure in the ear
  • Sudden spells of dizziness (vertigo)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Muffled hearing or hearing loss

While this condition typically impacts one ear, there's a possibility of it affecting both over time. Episodes usually last from a few minutes to a few hours, with lingering fatigue afterward. It's essential to note that the manifestation of this condition can vary among individuals, with episodes occurring regularly or sporadically, ranging from days to weeks or even years apart.

What is the diagnosis?

Meniere’s disease symptoms have an abrupt onset, but actual severity varies from person to person.

Stage 1: Unexpected episodes of vertigo, sometimes lasting up to a whole day; partial hearing loss, typically abating after each episode; the beginnings of tinnitus.

Stage 2: Lessening of vertigo, but hearing loss and tinnitus becoming more pronounced; sufferers experience a ‘remission’ from symptoms, which can last as long as several months.

Stage 3: Vertigo bouts even more uncommon, but tinnitus and hearing loss getting steadily worse; balance issues.

No matter what stage you are diagnosed with, it’s important that you seek medical treatment immediately. A doctor or hearing specialist such as one of the audiologists here at Boots Hearingcare will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your case.

What are the causes?

No one knows exactly what causes Meniere's disease. It’s linked to having excess fluid in the inner ear, although medical professionals can’t confirm this for certain.

Because it has no concrete, identifiable cause, thought to be brought on by a range of factors, including:

  • Fluid not draining from the ear properly
  • Allergies
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Migraines
  • Injury to the head or ear
  • Viral infection
  • Autoimmune complications

If any of the above apply to you and you’re exhibiting symptoms, please visit your GP for a firm diagnosis.

What are the treatments?

Meniere’s disease currently has no cure, but there are treatment options to manage symptoms, such as:

  • Medication – typically to provide relief from dizziness and vertigo
  • Injections – if symptoms are particularly troublesome
  • Therapy – counselling, cognitive behavioural, or relaxation (support groups are great too)
  • Surgery – normally only in severe cases

Your GP will be able to suggest the best treatment for you.

Frequently asked questions

Is Meniere’s disease hereditary?

The cases are often sporadic, meaning they occur in people with no family history of the disorder. Nevertheless, genetic predisposition plays an important role regarding individual susceptibility.

Does Meniere’s disease link to tinnitus?

Sufferers of Meniere’s disease often report tinnitus as one of their chief symptoms, usually described as a high-pitched ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in the ears.

Does Meniere’s disease affect driving?

By law, you as a driver must inform the DVLA and your vehicle insurer if you suffer from Meniere’s disease. The condition involves sudden attacks that can happen at any time, and while on the road, this constitutes a significant risk to yourself and others. Such debilitating attacks do not affect everyone, though, so there may not be need for any changes to your licence.

Avoid driving altogether if you feel a vertigo or dizziness attack coming on.

Dose Meniere’s disease clear up by itself?

Meniere’s disease, as a chronic condition, will not go away on its own. After a confirmed diagnosis, you should seek treatment recommended by your GP or other qualified medical professional.

What lifestyle changes should you make if you're diagnosed Meniere’s disease?

Despite a lack of supporting evidence, many Meniere’s disease patients cite various lifestyle changes as helping to manage their symptoms. These include cutting down on alcohol, salt, and caffeine, as well as stopping smoking.

Can you fly with Meniere’s disease?

Most people who have Meniere’s disease experience no difficulty with flying, and many even report feeling better for the experience. If you’re nervous about the possibility of a vertigo attack, get an aisle seat; it’s farthest from the view, which can be disorienting.

What are some common triggers?

While Meniere’s disease may have no exact cause, there are still many potential triggers. A few of these include:

  • Injury to the head or ear
  • Migraines
  • Ear infection
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Pre-existing autoimmune issues