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Balance awareness week: Meniere’s disease

This week marks Balance Awareness Week’ and we’re therefore covering an introduction to Ménière’s disease.

A long term and progressive condition, Ménière’s disease affects the balance and hearing parts of the inner ear. Symptoms can include acute attacks of vertigo or severe dizziness, fluctuating tinnitus, increasing deafness and a feeling of pressure in the ear. Read more about it here.

Ménière’s disease is thought to be present between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 2000 of the population – it can affect anyone at any age. 

Because it is a progressive disease, symptoms of Ménière’s can change over time. Unpredictable attacks of vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting and can last from a few minutes to 24 hours. Tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness can also be experienced in the affected ear. 

Remission between attacks can also vary, which can make Ménière’s disease unpredictable and distressing. In later stages of the condition, tinnitus is more prominent and fluctuating hearing loss often develops. Because there is permanent damage to the balance organ, significant balance problems are also common, resulting in falls and injury. While only one ear is usually affected, up to 50% of sufferers may develop the condition in both ears. 

As Ménière’s disease progresses further, individuals can develop irreversible hearing loss – also known as Ménière’s disease sensorineural hearing loss. Wearing a hearing aid in the affected ear can help Ménière’s sufferers to participate in every day life, social events and in the workplace. Hearing aids can also help to reduce the onset of tinnitus, which is another prominent symptom of Ménière’s disease.

While there is currently no cure, Ménière’s disease can be treated by reducing and controlling symptoms which affect each individual. Treatments may include medication, vestibular rehabilitation, diet and lifestyle changes, tinnitus management, hearing aids and counselling. 

If you receive a diagnosis of Ménière’s disease from your GP or specialist, it is very important to continue to monitor your hearing status so that any treatment for hearing loss or tinnitus can be implemented as soon as possible. These treatments will often improve your quality of life and reduce anxiety associated with deafness, imbalance or disorientation.

Did You Know? Prosper Menière (1799 – 1862) was a French doctor who first identified that the inner ear could be the source of a condition with vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus – now known as Ménière’s disease. 

For more information on Ménière’s disease, visit the Ménière’s Society website.