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Meniere’s disease and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is sometimes associated with a condition called Meniere’s disease which is a disorder of the flow of fluids of the inner ear. This is also called as ‘idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops.’

What causes a Meniere’s disease is unknown; it probably results from an abnormality in the way fluid of the inner ear is regulated. In most cases, only one ear is affected, but both ears may also be involved in about 15% of patients. This disease typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years in both men and women.

The symptoms usually may be a minor nuisance or can be disabling, especially if the attacks of vertigo are severe, frequent and occur without warning.

Symptoms:

  • Ear fullness – A feeling of fullness occurs just before the onset of an attack of vertigo.
  • Hearing loss – It may be intermittent/early in the onset of the disease, but over time hearing loss is persistent.
  • Tinnitus – A roaring, buzzing, ringing sound in the ear. It may follow after an attack of vertigo or it may be constant.
  • Episodic rotational vertigo – Attacks of spinning sensations accompanied by disequilibrium, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.

How is it diagnosed?

Meniere’s disease is diagnosed by history and certain physical examinations. Tinnitus or ear fullness needs to be present to make the diagnosis.

An audiogram is used to show a hearing loss and rule out other abnormalities. This could be done immediately following an attack of vertigo. As the disease progresses, hearing loss usually worsens.

Other tests such as the auditory brain stem response (ABR), a computerized test of hearing nerves and brain pathways, computer tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed to detect a tumor occurring on the hearing or balancing nerve.

Treatment:

Although there is no complete cure for a Meniere’s disease, the attacks of vertigo can be controlled in nearly all cases.

Facts of Meniere’s disease:

  • Symptoms of Meniere’s disease often fluctuate and include ringing, ear fullness, hearing loss, and poor equilibrium.
  • Diagnosis of Meniere’s disease is usually based on history and exam, though other tests can be also used.
  • Treatment of Meniere’s disease may include diet and lifestyle changes which include distributing the fluid intake evenly throughout the day, reducing the intake of salt, preferring complex sugars, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol completely.

See an audiologist if you experience these signs or symptoms of Meniere’s disease because any one of them can result from other illnesses and it is important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.

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