Is Your Hearing Loss Accompanied by Tinnitus and Attacks of Extreme Dizziness? You May Have Meniere's Disease

by Tina Blue
August 24, 2000

What is Meniere's disease?

          Meniere's disease, also called Meniere's syndrome, takes its name from Prosper Meniere, the nineteenth-century French physician who first described the disease. It is a progressive disorder of the inner ear. Fluid collects in the labrynth, the delicate membranous structure of the inner ear, and as the fluid increases, it creates increasing pressure within the ear. Eventually, the increasing pressure will cause distortion, swelling, or rupturing in the membrane of the labrynth wall.

Who gets Meniere's disease?

          Men are more likely than women to suffer from this condition, and symptoms do not usually show up before the individual is in his or her forties.

What are the symptoms of Meniere's disease?

          1. Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the sensation of noise--usually a ringing, whistling, or roaring sound--where there is no objective source for the noise. Only the person affected can hear the sound, because it is produced by some bodily condition.

          2. Vertigo

The inner ear controls the sense of balance. Since Meniere's disease damages the inner ear, one of the condition's most striking symptoms is the recurrence of sudden attacks of extreme vertigo (dizziness), sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. These attacks occur without warning, and are totally incapacitating. An attack of vertigo may last for only a few minutes, but more often an attack will go on for several hours. Months or years may go by before another episode occurs, and they usually become less frequent and severe over time.

          3. Progressive Hearing Loss

As Meniere's disease progresses, the victim usually becomes increasingly deaf. In the early stages of the disease, sound may seem just slightly muffled, but over time the hearing loss will become more pronounced, and profound deafness is often the ultimate outcome of the condition.

Is there a cure for Meniere's disease?

          Unfortunately, there is no cure for Meniere's disease, but researchers are actively seeking ways to treat its most distressing symptoms. At present, the victim's only recourse is to lie down and keep still at the first sign of an attack of vertigo.

          Because fluid retention may increase the frequency and severity of attacks, doctors recommend cutting back on salt and fluids. Many doctors prescribe medications to help control nausea and vomiting.

          The recurring attacks of vertigo and progressive hearing loss associated with Meniere's disease can be very frightening. Although there is no cure for this condition, most people who suffer from it want to understand the source of their symptoms. As distressing as a diagnosis of Meniere's disease may be, it is for most people less terrifying than what they are likely to imagine as the cause of their symptoms.
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