Meniere’s disorder that affects the inner ear and is known to cause severe vertigo and dizziness. As most people know, the sense of balance is actually controlled and coordinated by the movement of fluids throughout the ear canals and the action of tiny hairs that detect these fluids and which give us an idea of our orientation.
Imagine holding a glass filled with water. If you tip the glass sideways, the water will stay in the same place while the glass moves around it. Thus the side of the glass will get wet and not the bottom. Now imagine that’s your ear and on that side of the tube are lots of tiny hairs capable of interpreting that wetness and creating nerve signals to send to the brain.
Meniere’s disease also causes hearing loss and a feeling of fullness or congestion inside the ear. It is often associated with tinnitus and can have a range of different causes. Generally, though, it is the result of fluids building up and not being properly drained.
This is a serious but also quite interesting condition with lots of useful and interesting facts. Read on to learn 10 of them…
1. It’s Highly Common
Although the jury is out on what precisely causes Meniere’s disease, it seems pretty certain that the condition is highly common and actually going up as well. A shocking 615,000 individuals in the US are diagnosed with this condition right now. There are 45,000 new cases diagnosed each year and this seems to be going up. So the question is: why? It may be because we’re better at diagnosing it, but perhaps there is something else even stranger responsible?
2. It Causes Drop Attacks
Imagine walking around normally and feeling okay and then suddenly being struck with a case of vertigo so severe that it causes you to immediately fall over. This is common for people suffering from Meniere’s disease and is what is now referred to as a ‘drop attack’.
This can actually be a very dangerous problem and can be life-changing: if you should have a drop attack at the wrong time, then this can be very dangerous and you might seriously injure yourself or even someone else.
3. It’s More Common as We Age
As you get older, the likelihood of Meniere’s disease increases. Again, we don’t really know what causes it – though there are theories regarding the constriction of blood vessels – and this makes it all the stranger that we see certain trends and certain correlations. In particular, we seem most likely to suffer from Meniere’s disease when we are aged between 40 and 06 years.
4. It Affects a Part of the Ear Called the Labyrinth
The body is a fascinating place with some very interesting structures and some cool nomenclature.
For instance, that network of canals and tubes in the inner ear that allows you to balance and that plays a role in your hearing? That’s called the labyrinth! This is a fitting name for a part of the body that seems to stretch on and on with endless tunnels, forks, and loops!
There are actually two parts to this structure too. These are the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth. The membranous labyrinth is the part involved in balance, via a fluid called endolymph.
5. The Spoon Theory
While this condition might sound like a nuisance, the fact is that it can be life-altering and highly distressing. There is a large and supportive community that has formed around the condition therefore and many people find comfort in knowing that others are going through the same and are there for them.
The ‘spoon theory’ is a terminology used by many sufferers in order to describe how a chronic condition like this feels. They say it’s like having a number of spoons at the start of the day and each time you engage in something tiring, you give away a spoon. That can be talking to a friend, going to the bank, or just getting dressed. When you run out of spoons, you’re done for the day.
6. There Are Many Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is the ringing in the ear which is often associated with an upcoming drop attack.
So what causes tinnitus? There are actually several causes. One appears to be pressure or a build-up of fluids etc. This causes a force to be placed on the eardrum and on other receptors that register sound. As a result, the body can register that as noise because the nerve is ‘firing’ and thus you hear an incessant ringing.
At the same time though, you can also hear noise due to a ‘false positive’. If your hearing is completely blocked, then the brain can start to ‘invent’ noises as it becomes hypersensitive. Another way this happens is when we are highly stressed, which causes the brain and the body to essentially listen harder – and potentially thus create sounds where there are none.
7. Injection Therapy
One somewhat surprising treatment for this condition is injection therapy. This involves the injection of the antibiotic gentamicin into the middle ear. This seems to greatly control vertigo but appears to also increase the likelihood of complete hearing loss.
The hearing loss occurs because the injections can damage the microscopic hairs of the ear which helps us to hear. Some doctors will use corticosteroids instead.
8. Pressure Pulse Treatment
Another option that is newly approved by the FDA is called pressure pulse treatment. This treatment uses a small device that is fitted to the outer ear in order to deliver intermittent air pressure to the middle ear. These jets of air can act on the endolymph fluid and may prevent dizziness and drop attacks. While there is no guaranteed cure, this is one of the better options and can be very effective.
9. Cognitive Therapy
The condition of Meniere’s disease can actually be so distressing that some patients require therapy. Specifically, this will often take the form of CBT – a form of therapy that is designed around teaching coping methods and helping people to overcome fears and bad habits.
In this case, the therapy is directed at helping people cope with the fear of drop attacks so that they can enjoy their daily lives and not live in the constant worry that they are going to fall over. While safe precautions of course need to be taken, it’s not healthy to completely restrict yourself and never to engage in normal activities.
10. Dietary Changes
While the reason is not known, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that limiting the intake of salt, caffeine, and alcohol can help patients to reduce their symptoms. The reduction of salt may help to prevent the body from storing so much fluid, thereby preventing the build-up of fluid in the inner ear. The reasons for the benefits seen with restricting caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol are less obvious, however. Stopping smoking also seems to help many people.
Generally, one of the best ways to proceed is simply to be healthier. This is true of any condition and if you just look after yourself, it can at least improve the health surrounding your condition.