If you have Ménière’s disease, you might notice symptoms that last for a few minutes or a few hours and go away. Some of these symptoms include:
- Dizziness. You can feel dizzy, like you can’t keep your balance, or like you’re spinning around (vertigo [VUR-ti-goh]), even if you’re sitting still. This can sometimes feel like motion sickness, and you might be nauseous.
- Hearing loss. During the episode or attack, you might not be able to hear out of one ear.
- When you first have symptoms, you might still be able to hear higher-pitched sounds like voices or typing, while not being able to hear lower sounds, like a car engine.
- Over time, this symptom will get worse. People who have had Ménière’s disease for a few months or years will notice that it is hard to hear any sounds, whether they are high- or low-pitched.
- After you’ve had the disease for long enough, this hearing loss will be permanent, whether or not you are having an attack.
- Tinnitus [tin-EYE-tis]. You can hear a buzzing, roaring, or ringing sound in your ear even when there is no sound going on around you.
- Fullness. You might feel like your ear is full of water or under pressure during a Ménière’s disease attack.
The symptoms of Ménière’s disease are different for each person. Talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms so that they can decide if you have Ménière’s disease.
See a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms above, especially if they happen during episodes that go away and come back after a few days or weeks. Only your doctor can diagnose you with Ménière’s disease.
Your doctor might refer you to an otolaryngologist [oh-toh-lar-ing-GOL-uh-jist], a special doctor who focuses on problems with the ear and throat.
Doctors don’t know what causes Ménière’s disease, but most of them think that it is caused by having too much or too little fluid in your inner ear. These fluids are used to help you keep your balance and to send sound waves to the parts of your ear that turn these waves into signals for your brain.
While doctors don’t know the exact cause, they do know that people with allergies or autoimmune disorders might be at a higher risk of getting the disease.
If your doctor thinks you have Ménière’s disease, they will start by talking to you about your symptoms – how long you’ve had them, whether anything makes them better, and if you have a history of other problems with your ear. After that, they might do tests to help diagnose your problem.
Diagnostic tests can include:
- Audiometric examination. During these tests, your doctor will check your hearing by seeing how well you can hear quiet sounds, whether you can tell similar words apart, and if you are having problems in both years or just one.
- Electronystagmogram [ee-LEK-trow-nai-STAG-mow-GRAM] (ENG). During the ENG test, your doctor puts warm and cool water into each of your ears. While they do this, they watch your eye movements, and can study these movements to tell how your ears are helping you keep balance.
- Electrochocleography [ee-LEK-trow-KO-klee-oh-GRAF-ee] (ECoG). This test can help your doctor see if you have too much fluid in your inner ear.
- Imaging tests. A CT scan and MRI can be used to look for tumors that can affect your balance and hearing.
If you are having a Ménière’s disease attack, there are some things you can do to help reduce symptoms and feel better. These include:
- Lying down. When you stop moving around, you can feel less dizzy and are less likely to be injured if you fall.
- Focus on an unmoving object. If you look at an object that doesn’t move, this can help calm your inner ear and help you get your balance back. This can also reduce the symptoms of motion sickness and nausea.
Even though doctors aren’t sure what causes Ménière’s disease, there are some steps you can take to lower the number of attacks you get. These include:
- Avoiding stress. Stress can cause balance symptoms and problems with hearing.
- Avoiding caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Trying to eat healthy foods.
- Staying physically active.
Your doctor might recommend other treatments that can help reduce symptoms or how often you have attacks. These can include:
- Eating a low-salt diet. Salt can increase the amount of fluid in your body, including your inner ear, so eating less salt can lower the amount of fluid in your ear.
- Taking anti-vertigo medicines. Medicines can be used to prevent vertigo and help you feel better during attacks.
- Getting injections. Your doctor can inject medicine into your inner ear that can help reduce the causes of your symptoms.
If these treatments don’t work, your doctor might use an air pressure pulse generator or surgery to help you feel better, but these are usually not necessary.
Because doctors don’t know what causes Ménière’s disease, they don’t know how to prevent it. The best way to respond to this disease is to talk to your doctor as soon as you have symptoms so that you can stop the disease from getting worse or slow it down.
Ménière’s [meyn-YAIRZ] disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes or attacks of symptoms including vertigo, dizziness, hearing loss, and nausea.
Your inner ear helps you hear and keep your balance while you walk or stand. The inner ear has two systems that help you do these tasks:
- Cochlear [KO-klee-uhr]. This system helps you hear by turning the sound waves that enter your outer ear into signals that get passed to your brain.
- Vestibular [veh-STIH-byoo-luhr]. This system helps you keep your balance without falling, tripping, or getting dizzy.
Your inner ear also has fluid that helps the sound waves travel through your ear, and helps your nerves tell when you are moving or changing position. People with Ménière’s disease have a problem with their inner ear that can cause hearing and balance problems. These symptoms happen in episodes or attacks that can last as little as 20 minutes or up to 4 hours. After a few years, the hearing loss can be permanent. Usually, just one ear will be affected, but sometimes you might have these symptoms in both of your ears.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes Ménière’s disease, but they think it probably happens because your ear makes too much or too little fluid.
Ménière’s disease happens to people most often between the ages of 20 and 50 years. Ménière’s disease affects both men and women equally.