Key Points about Meniere’s Disease

  • Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that usually begins in one ear, but can spread to affect both ears over time.
  • Causes of Meniere’s disease may include changes in the inner ear fluid, autoimmune disease, allergies or genetics.
  • ENT doctors typically treat Meniere’s disease with a combination of medicine, physical therapy or surgery.

Overview

Meniere’s disease is a type of balance disorder than can lead to hearing loss. While the condition typically starts in one ear, it can later affect both. Managing Meniere’s disease is important, because if left untreated it can cause severe hearing loss over time. While there is currently no cure for Meniere’s disease, medicine, therapy and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms.

Meniere’s disease causes

Although the exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not known, some experts believe it is caused by changes in the inner ear fluid. Other potential causes include:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Genetics

Meniere’s disease risk factors

Most people develop the condition between the ages of 40 and 50.

Meniere’s disease symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Meniere’s disease may include:

  • Difficulty keeping your balance
  • Feeling of pressure in the ear, or full feeling in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea, vomiting or sweating
  • Rapid, involuntary eye movement
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Vertigo

Meniere’s disease diagnosis

Your ENT doctor may use one or more of the following tools to diagnose Meniere’s disease:

  • Physical examination. Your ENT doctor will perform a complete physical exam, and ask you questions about your health history in general and your Meniere’s disease symptoms specifically.
  • Hearing test. Your ENT doctor may order a hearing test, which can help determine the extent and type of your hearing loss. People with Meniere’s disease typically have trouble hearing in mid-range frequencies of sound.
  • Blood tests. A blood test can check for – or rule out – other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Balance exam. This test checks your balance and inner ear function.
  • Imaging tests. Your ENT doctor may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) to rule out brain or neurological system conditions.

Meniere’s disease treatment

Your ENT specialist may use one or more of the following treatments to help manage your Meniere’s disease:

  • Your ENT doctor may prescribe one or more medicines to help control the signs and symptoms of Meniere’s disease. These include medications to treat motion sickness, nausea, vomiting or fluid buildup in the inner ear.
  • Physical therapy. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist, who can help you learn and practice techniques that help your brain learn to account for the balance differences between your ears.
  • Hearing aids. These can help amplify sound and help you hear others’ speech and the world around you better.
  • If conservative approaches are not effective in treating a balance condition, your ENT doctor may recommend a surgical procedure.

When to seek care

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an ENT doctor for more specialized treatment.