What Is Meniere’s Disease?

Meniere’s disease, also known as idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, is one of the most common causes of dizziness originating in the inner ear.  In most cases only one ear is involved; however it can occur in both.  It typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.  Men and women are affected equally.

What Are The Causes?

Although the cause is unknown, Meniere’s disease is thought to be due to an over accumulation of endolymph fluid within the vestibular system.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms?

Meniere’s disease describes a set of episodic symptoms including vertigo (attacks of a spinning sensation), hearing loss, tinnitus (a roaring, buzzing, or ringing sound in the ear), and a sensation of fullness in the affected ear.

Episodes typically last from 20 minutes up to 4 hours. Hearing loss is often intermittent, occurring mainly at the time of the attacks of vertigo. Loud sounds may seem distorted and cause discomfort. Usually, the hearing loss involves mainly the lower pitches, but over time this often affects tones of all pitches. After months or years of the disease, hearing loss often becomes permanent. Tinnitus and fullness of the ear may come and go with changes in hearing, occur during or just before attacks, or be constant.

How is Meniere’s Diagnosed?

Through evaluation of your clinical history of symptoms and an audiogram, a diagnosis can be made.  Other tests may be ordered to rule out other causes.

How Is Meniere’s Disease Treated?

Although there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, the attacks of vertigo can be controlled in nearly all cases.  Treatment may include:

  • A low salt diet and a diuretic (water pill)
  • Anti-vertigo medications
  • Intratympanic injection with either gentamicin or dexamethasone.
  • An air pressure pulse generator (Meniett device)
  • Surgery