Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder characterized by episodic rotational vertigo lasting at least 20 minutes each (feeling like the world is spinning), tinnitus, fluctuating (low frequency) hearing loss, and ear fullness.
(Low-frequency) Hearing Loss
The initial triggers of Meniere’s disease are not fully understood. Some studies suggested that Meniere’s disease is a result of excessive fluid (endolymph) built up in the vestibular sy stem of the inner ear interfering with the normal balance and hearing signals between the inner ear and the brain. Factors that affect endolymph in the inner ear might contribute to Meniere’s disease, included:
- Genetic predisposition
- Viral infection
- Head trauma
- Abnormal immune response
Diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease
The diagnosis of Meniere’s disease is primarily made from the history and physical examination. Doctor may refer patient for several tests to support a Meniere’s disease diagnosis.
Diagnostic tests for Meniere’s Disease included:
- Pure tone audiometry test
- Auditory brain stem response (ABR)
- Computer tomography (CT scan)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Since Meniere’s disease often complimentary with a low frequency sensorineural hearing loss in the affected ear, pure tone audiometry is typically conducted to assess the hearing thresholds at various frequencies, especially responses at low frequency regions. Other tests such as the auditory brain stem response (ABR), computer tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed to rule out other causes such as tumor on or pressing the vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII).
Treatment of Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s disease does not have a cure yet. In order to have less effect from Meniere, people can:
- Always staying happy
- Avoiding tobacco and irritating food such as tea, coffee or spicy food can help to reduce symptoms
- Another common way is to have low salt diet as high salt concentration makes the body hold extra fluid and results in fluctuations in the inner ear fluid pressure. Diuretics might be prescribed by doctor as necessary to reduce salt levels.
- When dizziness and/or vertigo attacks, patients can take oral anti-dizziness medication and/or lie down to rest
- If vomiting persists, patient might require intravenous hydration to replenish the water loss.
Surgical treatment could be performed on those serious cases to drain the excess endolymphatic fluid in the inner ear or cut of the nerve responsible for balancing. However, such surgery may put patients at risk of hearing impairment or facial nerve paralysis. Therefore, surgery is the last resort for persons who have severe disabling attacks and pre-operation assessment by doctor is necessary.