Our understanding of the complicated workings of the inner ear makes us uniquely suited to help you with problems beyond hearing — for example, balance.
Your sense of balance is a coordinated effort. Your eyes, muscles, joints, brain, and inner ear work together to keep your gaze and footing steady. But the most commonly diagnosed balance issues, such as Ménière’s disease, can be traced back to the inner ear.
What Is Ménière’s Disease?
It is a condition that may be characterized by any or all of the following: sudden episodes of hearing loss, dizziness, imbalance, ear pressure/fullness, and tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ears). It is unpredictable, and symptoms and episodes vary. Episodes can last minutes to hours, and they can occur daily or as infrequently as every few years.
In the early stages, a typical episode will likely include:
- Hearing loss that comes and goes
- Sudden vertigo
- Ear pressure
- Blurred vision
Often, fatigue sets in after an episode, as well as brain fog, lightheadedness, and sound sensitivity.
In later stages of Ménière’s disease, the hearing loss, tinnitus, balance issues, and ear pressure may become more pronounced and more constant.
What Causes Ménière’s Disease?
Your inner ear is filled with a fluid called endolymph. Your body naturally maintains this fluid at the correct volume and ensures the correct concentration of sodium, potassium, chloride, and other electrolytes.
In your cochlea, the endolymph plays a crucial role in translating sound waves into electrical signals, which are sent to your brain to be interpreted as sound.
The endolymph also fills three bony canals in your inner ear. As you move, the fluid’s movements stimulate balance receptors, sending important balance information to your brain.
Ménière’s disease presents itself when something affects the volume, chemical makeup, or pressure of the endolymph. Why someone begins to have symptoms — in other words, why someone’s endolymph would fundamentally change — is not yet known.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A detailed history of your symptoms is taken, including the nature and character of your hearing loss, whether tinnitus or fullness was present, which ears were affected, and the frequency, duration, severity, and character of your attacks. Diagnostic testing of your hearing and balance will also be completed.
How Is It Treated?
Because there’s no known cause, there’s no cure as of yet, but there are treatment options. Typical conservative treatment consists of lifestyle changes — the first five in this list help to regulate fluid levels in the inner ear — plus managing symptoms:
- Limiting salt
- Limiting caffeine
- Limiting tobacco
- Limiting alcohol
- Taking a diuretic
- Vestibular rehabilitation therapy
- Medications (during an attack to reduce vertigo and nausea)
Understanding Ménière’s is key to successfully navigating your symptoms. Educating yourself, talking with your audiologist and primary care physician, and sharing concerns will put you in the best position to thrive.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you think you might have Ménière’s or another balance-related issue.