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Meniere's Disease

Meniere’s disease happens when too much fluid backs up in the inner ear organs. This causes a pressure change and can lead to both hearing and balance impairment. It usually only affects one ear and can occur at any age.

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To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Hearing & Balance team at 513-475-8400.

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To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Otology & Neurotology team at 513-475-8400. For cochlear implant or bone-anchored hearing aid appointments, you can reach us at cochlearimplant@uchealth.com.

About This Condition

Understanding Meniere's Disease

What is Meniere’s disease?

With Meniere’s, too much endolymph (fluid) backs up in the canals of the inner ear. This is a condition called endolymphatic hydrops. Extra fluid causes pressure to build up. The canals then swell and can’t work right. Swelling in the hearing canal distorts or blocks sound information. Swelling in the balance canals distorts balance information. Distorted information travels from the inner ear to the brain. This causes problems with both balance and hearing. Although Meniere’s usually affects only one ear, it can occur in both ears.

Symptoms of Meniere’s disease

  • Vertigo, a spinning or whirling sensation that causes balance problems. During an attack of vertigo, you may have nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Attacks usually begin suddenly. They may last for 20 minutes to several hours. You may have attacks rarely, frequently, or in clusters. The first attack is usually the most intense.

  • Problems with hearing. Hearing is often partially or completely lost in the affected ear during vertigo attacks. It’s common for hearing to gradually get worse as the illness goes on.

  • Tinnitus, ringing, buzzing, whistling, or roaring noises in the affected ear. These noises may come and go or may always be present. The noises may get louder just before a vertigo attack.

  • A feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear. This is sometimes felt most strongly right before a vertigo attack.

Coping with Meniere’s Disease

Coping with Meniere’s disease is not easy. Learn as much as you can about how to deal with attacks and how to help yourself between attacks.

Daily Life with Meniere's Disease

The unpredictable and disruptive symptoms of Meniere’s disease will probably mean having to make adjustments in your daily life. Keep these strategies in mind:

  • At work. If symptoms interfere with your job, think about the changes that would help. Then talk to your employer. If changes can’t be made, ask whether moving to a better-suited position within the company is an option. Ask your human resources office if you qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Or go to www.ada.gov for more information.

  • At home. If your balance is unsteady, move sharp, breakable objects out of the way. Arrange stable, sturdy objects so that you can use them for support.

  • In the car. If you have attacks that occur without warning, driving may be dangerous for you. Explore public or private transportation options. Low-cost transportation is often available for those who need it.

You may also consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

What to do during an attack

  • Lie down on a firm surface in a darkened room.

  • Stay as still as possible.

  • Keep your eyes open. It may help to stare at a stationary object.

  • Take any medicines that your doctor has prescribed to use for an attack.

  • Don’t get up until the spinning passes. When you do get up, do so slowly.

  • Find a comfortable place to rest or sleep for several hours while you regain your sense of balance.

Reduce Your Stress

Stress doesn’t cause Meniere’s disease, but it may cause symptoms or make them worse. Ask your healthcare provider how to deal with stress. These tips can help you get started:

  • Pay attention to what makes you feel tense. Note how your body responds to tension. “Listen” to your body for signs such as stomach upsets, tense muscles, clenched teeth, or other symptoms.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about starting a regular exercise program. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Include an aerobic activity (such as walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming) in your exercise program.

  • Take time out from your daily errands and chores to do things you enjoy and find relaxing. Don’t look at relaxation time as wasted time. Instead, think of it as an investment in your health.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about visualization techniques, deep-breathing exercises, stretching, yoga, meditation, and biofeedback. These are all ways to help reduce stress.

Treating Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a problem with the inner ear. Certain medicines can help manage the symptoms of this disease. Some help reduce fluid pressure in the inner ear. Others help ease symptoms themselves. But no medicine will cure Meniere’s disease. And no one medicine is right for everyone. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Reducing the fluid

Fluid buildup in your inner ear often causes the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. Drugs called diuretics rid the body of excess fluid. By doing so, they may help reduce fluid buildup in the ear. Diuretics may make your body lose a mineral called potassium. Because of this, you may also be given supplements to take.

Treating Meniere’s symptoms

Certain drugs can help control symptoms. They include:

  • Anti-dizziness medicines. These help relieve vertigo.

  • Antinausea (also called antiemetic) medicines. These help relieve nausea and vomiting.

  • Sedatives. These help you relax and sleep during a vertigo attack.

Note: Attacks often cause nausea and vomiting. So these drugs may be given in the form of a rectal suppository. This helps ensure it stays in your system even if you throw up.

Other medicines

Other drugs help reduce inner ear swelling. Some improve hearing and others add to symptom relief. If one might be right for you, your healthcare provider can tell you more about it and how it is used.

Steroid therapy

Your healthcare provider may recommend a steroid injection in your middle ear. This can decrease or eliminate the vertigo episodes. This treatment has a small risk of leaving a permanent hole in the eardrum.

Antibiotic therapy

Certain antibiotics shut down the balance portion of the inner ear. This can relieve symptoms of vertigo. The treatment is most often given in the healthcare provider’s office. It is done over a period of several weeks. Liquid antibiotic is injected directly into the middle ear. The effect of this treatment is permanent. Talk with your healthcare provider about its benefits and risks and whether it is right for you.

Surgical procedures

The following are procedures that might be done. Your doctor can discuss these and other options with you.

  • Endolymphatic sac decompression or shunt. Pressure on a structure in the inner ear called the endolymphatic sac is thought to play a role in Meniere’s disease. During surgery, a small amount of bone is removed from around the sac. Tubing may be placed in the sac. This may help relieve pressure and reduce symptoms.

  • Vestibular neurectomy. The nerve from the balance portion of the ear is cut. This prevents the brain from receiving signals that trigger a vertigo attack. This affects the ability of that ear to regulate balance. In a short time, though, the brain adjusts to using just one ear for balance.

  • Labyrinthectomy. The entire balance canal is removed from the affected ear. The ear can no longer regulate balance. The brain can usually adjust to one ear regulating balance. So balance can return to normal. But all hearing in that ear will be lost. So this procedure is most often done only in people with little or no hearing in the affected ear.

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