Understanding Ménière’s Disease


Many Arizonans who experience unexplained vertigo, in addition to fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus, and fullness or pressure in their ears, will receive a diagnosis of Ménière’s disease in Tucson. If you’re one of them, your first question might be, what’s with all the funny-looking accent symbols over the letter e? Blame that on Prosper Ménière, the French doctor who was the first to identify the disorder in 1861. Unusual spelling conventions aside, you might also be wondering what, exactly, Ménière’s disease is. Don’t worry – we’ve got answers.

What Causes Ménière’s Disease?

Woman suffering from Ménière’s disease in Tucson

Ménière’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes a variety of unpleasant symptoms. While the exact mechanism responsible for producing these symptoms is unclear, we do know that they occur as a result of fluid buildup in the inner ear. Excess fluid is believed to be tied to a dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac, an organ that regulates the volume and pressure of fluids in the inner ear. Doctors theorize failure of this organ may be caused by circulation disorders, viral infections, head trauma, allergies, migraines, or obstructions of the ear canal. Your audiologist in Tucson will tell you that Ménière’s disease affects approximately one out of every 1,000 Arizona residents, and is most likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 40 and 60.

Ménière’s Episodes

If you suffer from Ménière’s disease, you’ll experience episodes that may last as little as a few minutes or as long as 24 hours. Not only are these attacks unpredictable in nature; they vary greatly in frequency, as well. You might experience symptoms several times a week or perhaps only once every few years.

Typically, attacks are preceded by warning signs that include dizziness, loss of balance, headache, and sensitivity to noises. In addition to vertigo that may be severe, tinnitus, sporadic hearing loss, and fullness in the ears, you might also experience anxiety, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, trembling, rapid pulse, and diarrhea. Once the attack has passed, exhaustion is common; many patients feel an increased need for sleep. Obviously Ménière’s disease is no picnic, but help is available.

Treating Ménière’s Disease

While there is no cure for Ménière’s disease, your audiologist in Tucson will recommend a treatment plan to help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. Motion sickness and anti-nausea medications, diuretics, antibiotics, and oral or injectable steroids are a few of the most common medical options available. In addition, most patients are urged to adopt a reduced sodium diet and implement other lifestyle changes such as limiting the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and MSG; drinking plenty of water; quitting smoking; avoiding allergens; and reducing stress and anxiety. Certain vestibular rehabilitation exercises may be effective, as well. If your condition is especially severe, your audiologist might recommend surgery. A number of procedures are available.

If you are experiencing these symptoms and haven’t sought treatment yet, we urge you to contact your Tucson audiologist today.

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Arizona Hearing Specialists
Arizona Hearing Specialists