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What is Meniere's disease?

David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
Meniere's disease, which interferes with balance and hearing, affects about 615,000 people in the United States, mainly women over 40. Its cause is unknown. Doctors have long thought that some cases are triggered by migraines. Another likely cause is damage from an inner ear infection. Unlike many other causes of hearing loss, which lead to constant difficulty hearing, Meniere's causes spells of hearing loss that come and go. These spells are accompanied by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus. One or both ears may be affected.

Meniere's symptoms are caused by an accumulation of endolymph, a kind of fluid in the inner ear. The fluid builds up to the point that the membranes that contain it rupture, damaging the sensory cells around them. An attack of Meniere's can last minutes or hours. Afterward, the dizziness and tinnitus stop and hearing usually returns to normal. But with each attack, persistent tinnitus and hearing loss become more likely.

No two people with Meniere's have the same experience. Some get just one attack in their lives; others have a second attack many years later; while still others have attacks every month or even every day. Sometimes the condition stops on its own, but in other cases sufferers need medication or surgery for relief.
Eric E. Smouha, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)

Meniere’s disease is a condition that causes unpredictable episodes of vertigo. Patients experience hearing loss, fullness, and noise (tinnitus) in the affected ear. Most patients, when properly diagnosed, respond to medical treatment and dietary measures. Patients with severe attacks are sometimes treated surgically. Intratympanic gentamicin, a relatively new office procedure, has been effective in curing many patients of vertigo without the need for an operation.

Meniere's disease (a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of vertigo, ringing in the ears, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and fluctuating hearing loss) causes attacks of dizziness and hearing loss. Over time, the hearing in the affected ear becomes worse and there is often tinnitus (ringing in the ear). It is difficult to treat, but sometimes diuretics can be helpful. Ultimately an otologist can inject an antibiotic into the ear, which will cause damage to the nerve and reduce the symptom of dizziness, though the hearing in that ear will be worsened.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.