Ménière's disease

A disorder of the inner ear

What is Ménière's disease?

A disorder of the inner ear, Ménière's disease is a progressive condition that can develop at any age. It affects balance and hearing, causing vertigo, dizziness and hearing loss. In most cases, people with Ménière's disease experience symptoms in one ear.

Who is affected?

Ménière's disease is not a common condition; however, it can develop at any age and affects both genders equally. The condition tends to fluctuate, with phases of acute symptoms which are followed by phases of remission. Certain sufferers may experience further complications, for example those with professions that rely on a sense of balance such as scaffolders, pilots, and bus drivers.

Symptoms of Ménière's disease

The symptoms of Ménière's disease are often experienced in attacks that start suddenly and last for several hours at a time. People with the condition may experience attacks frequently or more sporadically, with days, weeks or months between each attack.

Some common symptoms of Ménière's disease include: vertigo, noise sensitivity, trouble hearing clearly, tinnitus, pressure within the ear and hearing loss.

The progression of the condition is identified by three stages: early, middle and late stages. Early stage Ménière's disease is characterised by sudden, unpredictable attacks, while later stages see the frequency of attacks lessen over time. However, the way that Ménière's disease progresses does vary from person to person.

The three stages of Ménière's disease

Ménière's disease can be divided into three stages: early, intermediate and late. Symptoms may vary between people and over time. 

The early stage includes unpredictable attacks of vertigo which can last from a few minutes to hours. During the attack there may be a variable amount of hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the ear. 

The attacks continue in the intermediate stage; however, they may now be less severe. There may be symptoms of tinnitus along with a development of hearing loss and continued vertigo. 

In the late stage, hearing loss symptoms increase and often the symptoms of vertigo reduce or stop completely. Hearing loss may be severe at this stage. 

It’s important to note that as Ménière's disease progresses, the degree of hearing loss experienced does often increase. Tinnitus also commonly accompanies the increase in hearing loss.

A woman wearing her earrings next to her hearing aid

Hearing aids for Ménière's disease

Hearing aids may help with mild to moderate hearing loss caused by Ménière's disease. Get in touch with your Bay Audiology clinician to find out what options may be available for your level of hearing loss.

Causes of Ménière's disease

At the present time, the cause of Ménière's disease is unknown. The symptoms of the condition, however, are caused by a build-up of fluid within the inner ear, which impacts both balance and hearing.

Ménière's disease treatment

If you are experiencing vertigo, book an appointment with your GP. Depending on their assessment of your symptoms, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist or prescribed medication to help alleviate the severity of your symptoms.

Ménière's disease is an ongoing condition that unfortunately can’t be cured. However, some people with the condition experience periods of remission where the symptoms are very mild or non-existent.

To help reduce the frequency of the attacks and their severity, those with the condition may:

  • Learn to recognise the warning signs that an attack is starting.
  • Take time to rest after an attack.
  • Become acquainted with the triggers that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
  • Reduce their daily sodium intake.
  • Take part in vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
  • Take medications that control nausea, vertigo and fluid retention within the ear.

In some severe cases, surgery may be required to reduce the amount of fluid within the inner ear or to cut the nerve that sends balance and movement signals to the brain. Although surgery will not cure the condition, it may help to reduce the severity of symptoms such as vertigo.

Ménière's disease can be a difficult condition to live with, especially if you are experiencing its early stages. Consider connecting with a support group if you have questions about living with symptoms, dealing with attacks or monitoring the condition’s progression.

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