Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a condition that usually involves four very disturbing and fluctuating symptoms. The first symptom is fluctuating hearing loss.  The hearing loss usually involves the lower frequencies at least in the beginning of the disease.   The second symptom involves vertigo in which the room seems to be spinning around the patient.  The patient can become very nauseous because of the vertigo.  A third symptom is tinnitus.  The patients often describe the tinnitus as a roaring sound.  Finally, the fourth symptom is an aural fullness similar to the feeling of pressure in the middle ear while flying in an airplane.  However, the full feeling experienced with Meniere’s disease in not coming from the middle ear.

A Meniere’s attack can strike suddenly and cause the patient to become very dizzy quickly.  Some episodes can be very violent and others may be less mild.  The duration can be minutes, hours, days, or even longer.  Patients complain that their hearing suddenly decreases, their ear is roaring and feels full and they are very dizzy.  After a while, their hearing improves, the roaring and full feeling go away and the room is no longer spinning around them.

Most researchers believe that the symptoms that are called Meniere’s disease in most patients are the result of “idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops”.  Basically, there are two different sacs in the inner ear with different types of fluid in each sac. The theory is that during acute Meniere’s attacks, chemicals from one of the sacs leaks through the separating membrane contaminating the fluid in the other sac.  There are other researchers who believe that Meniere’s disease is caused by other factors.  At this point in time, we are not absolutely sure about the exact cause of Meniere’s disease.

It is very important that your physician refer you to an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation if you are experiencing the symptoms of Meniere’s disease.  There are other problems involving the inner ear that can produce similar symptoms.  For example, an acoustic tumor can also cause hearing loss and vertigo.  Hearing thresholds do not usually fluctuate in patients with an acoustic neuroma.  Early diagnosis is extremely important.

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