When thinking about ears, the first idea that comes to mind is, of course, one’s hearing. However, your ears serve more purposes than just letting you hear what’s around you. For example, your ears are an essential part of dealing with changes in pressure. And, as many people are aware, ears are also a crucial component in one’s balance. This means, however, many issues can affect one’s ear and go beyond the usual hearing loss. One of these is Meniere’s Disease.
Meniere’s Disease is a condition of the inner ear that affects one’s balance, often causing a sensation of vertigo. Other symptoms can include a sense of spinning, hearing problems and ringing sounds – like tinnitus. Symptoms tend to come in episodes rather than frequently, usually only affecting one ear, often arising around the 40s-’50s. While Meniere’s disease’s exact cause is unknown, a few theories exist. These include changes in fluid in the inner ear tubes, allergies, genetics, or autoimmune diseases, for example.
To diagnose Meniere’s Disease, there are a couple of steps involved. If you are showing symptoms that correlate with Meniere’s, you should start by seeing your GP. They will then refer you to specialists (including an audiologist) to get some tests done. Interestingly, in diagnosing Meniere’s, many tests are more focused on the eyes. One of these is an Electronystagmography test. This involves putting water in the ear and monitoring eye movements. The eyes respond to the water and the change in balance it induces, indicating Meniere’s (or not).
If there is a hearing loss as one of the symptoms, your GP will also refer you to an audiologist. We will be able to look at your ears and check the degree of hearing loss felt and possible tinnitus. Other tests may also be undertaken – usually to do with balance – until the results show a conclusive diagnostic.
Meniere’s is, unfortunately, a condition that does not have a cure. However, it can be managed through treatments. From an audiological perspective, we can take care of your hearing loss or tinnitus, which hearing aids can help with. Your GP can recommend medication to help with nausea or to reduce the fluid in the ear. They may also suggest physiotherapy to help teach the brain to account for perceived changes in balance. This can help alleviate the feeling of vertigo for instance. There are also options to look at injections to improve dizziness.
You can also make simple changes in your lifestyle to help limit the symptoms. Dietary changes like limiting salt, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and MSG can go a long way toward reducing fluid buildup. As with general health, you should also keep regular meal times and drink 2 Litres of water each day. And, of course, reduce smoking and manage stress. During vertigo episodes, make sure to rest as well to lessen the impact of the symptoms.
Some antiviral drugs also exist, which can help reduce and overturn some of the symptoms of Meniere’s. If all else fails and the symptoms are particularly hard, your GP may also suggest surgery as a possible option. So while there is no definite cure yet, Meniere’s can become a very manageable condition with the proper attention.
If you feel like one of your ears is clogged, you should make an appointment to see an audiologist. It could be a simple wax blockage easily removed at our clinic. But it may be a symptom of something else which needs to be looked at. Our audiologist will check your ears, ask the right questions, and take the next step with you. So don’t hesitate to call your local Falls of Sound clinic and discuss any concerns you may have.