Meniere’s disease generally has 4 key symptoms including:
Tinnitus, periodic vertigo and dizziness, fluctuating hearing loss which can be progressive and pressure in the ear.
Tinnitus is a often heard as a ‘Ringing in the Ears’ and is a psychological noise which describes the medical terminology for a ringing, roaring, buzzing, whistling, hissing or other high pitched sounds heard in the ears or inside the head of a Tinnitus sufferer. This ringing noise can be in one or two ears, can be heard constantly or sometimes just occasionally and is usually very annoying and stressful for a person with Tinnitus. The type of tinnitus which is experienced by a Meniere’s patient is usually continuos and its intensity often varies in pitch.
Periodic Vertigo And Dizziness.
Meniere’s disease causes the patient to suffer from periodic attacks of dizziness and vertigo and is often called a Meniere’s attack. It is often the vertigo attack that causes the patient to get medical treatment as the attack can cause sever disability. These attacks can last hours, days, weeks and sometimes even months in their duration with periods of brief remission in between.
The symptoms can include spells of vertigo, dizziness, increased hearing loss, tinnitus, unsteadiness, pressure in the ears, the perception of spinning, sweating, nausea, vomiting and extreme motion sickness. When a sufferer has vertigo they can feel like the world is spinning and that they are also spinning and this Vertigo usually disrupts almost all aspects of life because the sufferer loses the capacity to do everyday activities.
The Impact of Meniere’s Disease On The Sufferer
Most people can’t understand the full impact of Meniere’s disease on the sufferer even though many of us are familiar with dizziness in mild forms such as from being a little drunk, car or seasickness, showground rides etc.
If you multiply these effects by a factor of five or even ten times you can start to understand the devastating effects that Meniere’s disease can have. Also understand that the attacks can sometimes for periods ranging from a few hours to days or even weeks. Meniere’s disease patients’ dizziness and vertigo is usually prolonged and sustained and often increases in intensity.
Other difficulties faced by sufferers can include the excacerbation of the condition by external noises such as loud TVs, music and radios. It is important to remember that when a normal person suffers from ‘dizziness’ they can usually get over it pretty quickly ie stop drinking, hop off the showground ride etc whereas a Meniere’s sufferer will have to handle the total lack of control associated with their situation except for some relief they may find by taking anti vertiginous drugs.
The Effects of Meniere’s Disease And What To Do Next
Meniere’s disease often causes hearing loss affecting one or both ears and the patient can lose sensitivity to low frequency sounds. Loud sounds normally able to be handled by the majority of people can become intolerable for the Meniere’s patient and this is called ‘loudness intolerance’.
Yet another condition of Meniere’s can be the sensation of ‘fullness’ in the ear which is similar to the experience of ear pressure changes found in an airplane journey on take off and landing. Unfortunately for the Meniere’s patient they cannot clear the ear pressure by the normal means ie swallowing or holding your nose and breathing outwards.
Meniere’s disease most commonly affects people in their 40’s, 50’s and 60s and it is generally thought that just under 1% of the population contract it.
People with Meniere’s disease should seek medical assistance and your initial Medical or Audiologic Examination should include:
- Indentifying whether or not you have vertigo.
- Your full health and hearing history such as whether you have had tinnitus or hyperacusis.
- Any head injuries, traumas, accidents or other illnesses you have had.
- Blood pressure assessment, blood testing and pulse testing.
- Your complete history of use or abuse of medications.
- An examination of your head, throat, neck, ears, chest and hearing.
- CAT or MRI scans and an audiological evaluation to see if you have tinnitus or hyperacusis.
This type of health exam will take longer than a normal health check up and its recommended that you see an ear specialist so you can get a full evaluation to determine whether you have Meniere’s disease or tinnitus.
The type of specialist you will most likely want to see will be a hearing specialist such as an Audiologist, Neurotologists or Otologist. The full name for an Otologist is Otolaryngologist and these types of Doctors are also called ear-nose-and-throat or ENT doctors.
They are physicians that have advanced medical training in disorders of the ear, nose and throat (ENT). Otologists (or neurotologists) are Doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and then treatment of disorders of the ear.