Ear Institute : Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s Disease

Ménière’s disease, also commonly referred to as endolymphatic hydrops, is a disorder of the inner ear causing vertigo. It is a result of overproduction of endolymph fluid in the inner ear. This increase in fluid causes an increase in pressure within the organ resulting in progressive degeneration of the hair cells in the inner ear. Patients with Meniere’s disease or endolymphatic hydrops have complaints of attacks of vertigo that can last hours at a time, pressure or a fullness sensation in the ear, tinnitus (ringing), and fluctuations in hearing.

Because the endolymph fluid is present throughout both the auditory and vestibular portions of the inner ear, most patients experience both auditory and balance symptoms. However, some patients may just experience auditory or balance symptoms in isolation.

Ménière’s often begins with one symptom, and gradually progresses. However, not all symptoms must be present for a doctor to make a diagnosis of the disease. Several symptoms at once are more conclusive than different symptoms at separate times.

Attacks of vertigo can be severe, incapacitating, and unpredictable. Some sufferers experience what are informally known as “drop attacks“—a sudden, severe attack of dizziness or vertigo that causes the sufferer, if not seated, to fall. Patients may also experience the feeling of being pushed or pulled (Pulsion). Some patients may find it impossible to get up for some time, until the attack passes or medication takes effect. Hearing may improve after an attack, but often becomes progressively worse. Attacks often come in series of a few minutes to a few hours and can sometimes be accompanied by Nausea, vomiting and sweating.

In addition to hearing loss, sounds can seem tinny or distorted, and patients can experience unusual sensitivity to noises (hyperacusis). Some sufferers also experience nystagmus, or uncontrollable rhythmical and jerky eye movements, usually in the horizontal plane, reflecting the essential role of non-visual balance in coordinating eye movements.

Studies done on both right and left ear sufferers show that patients with their right ear affected tend to do significantly worse in cognitive performance. General intelligence was not hindered, and it was concluded that declining performance was related to how long the patient had been suffering from the disease.