Ménière’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause episodes of spinning dizziness, or vertigo, that are associated with tinnitus, hearing loss, and ear pressure. Ménière’s disease is a cause of hearing loss and more commonly affects only one ear. A hearing test is important to see how Ménière’s disease has affected the hearing.
Those suffering from Ménière’s disease may experience attacks of vertigo that come on suddenly and are associated with periods of tinnitus or muffled hearing. Some people have occasional attacks of spinning dizziness, while others may have many single attacks over several days. Some people with Ménière’s disease experience vertigo that is so severe that they lose their balance and fall.
The cause of Ménière’s disease is not currently known. Scientists believe that it has to do with the fluid levels or the mixing of fluids in the canals of the inner ear. Providers diagnose the condition based on:
- Providing a physical exam
- Identifying the specific combination and pattern of symptoms, and
- Ruling out other disorders
At this time, there is no cure for Ménière’s disease. Symptoms of vertigo are effectively managed in most patients by limiting salt in the diet and taking water pills, or diuretics. When severe and frequent spells of vertigo continue, steroid injections can be helpful.
If Ménière’s disease affects both ears, a device that fits into the outer ear and delivers air pulses to the middle ear can help, in some cases. Severe cases of Ménière’s disease may require surgery. These treatments do not effectively alter the course of hearing loss, which continues to decline over time, generally ending with moderate-to-severe levels of hearing loss.