Meniere’s disease is a repetitive and usually progressive disorder of the labyrinth of the inner ear which is characterized by recurring episodes of tinnitus, vertigo, gradual hearing loss, loss of balance, heightened sensitivity to loud sounds, headache, and sensation of fullness in the ears.
Sensorineural Type of Hearing Loss
Meniere’s disease is classified as a type of sensorineural hearing loss. While there are many contributing factors and theories as to why people suffer from Meniere’s and the progressive hearing loss associated with it, the cause is largely unknown. In about 90% percent of cases of Meniere’s disease, only the one ear is affected.
People who suffer from Meniere’s disease report that they experience attacks that last anywhere from minutes up to hours, which can be extremely debilitating. During the acute phase of the attack, sufferers can experience nausea, vomiting, and profuse sweating.
While there is no known definitive cause of the disease, there are contributing factors such as hypoglycemia, allergies and food intolerances, salicylate sensitivity, viral or bacterial infections, excessive salt intake, stress, toxins, or hormonal imbalances. Often the only apparent pathology found in Meniere’s sufferers is a swelling of the semicircular canals of the middle ear, which upsets the balance center.
Researchers have found that it is common for Meniere’s sufferers also to have hypoglycemia or insulin resistance and in some cases hypertriglyceridemia. Studies show that people with these types of metabolic abnormalities have improved their symptoms of Meniere’s disease by changing their diets to a diet that improved their glucose metabolism and was low in fat and cholesterol and avoided caffeine and alcohol.
After implementation of the dietary guidelines, 92% of sufferers achieved control of their vertigo and hearing returned to normal in 8% of patients and tinnitus disappeared in 10%.
Role of Allergies
Allergies to foods or inhalants may play a role in the development of Meniere’s disease and associated hearing loss, with the most commonly implicated foods being milk, wheat and wheat products, yeast, and egg.
Often simple avoidance or desensitization therapy for the offending allergen results in improvement of symptoms. It has also been hypothesized that an excessive secretion of endolymph is a contributing factor to Meniere’s disease.
This implies that there may be a dysfunction of the endolymphatic sac and duct that normally absorb endolymph. Inflammation in this area whether it be viral, bacterial or autoimmune in origin is thought to be a contributing factor.
Treatment of Meniere’s disease can involve a change of diet as discussed earlier, change of lifestyle such as avoiding smoking, the use of vaso-dilating drugs or surgical intervention that involves relieving the accumulation of fluid in the endolymphatic sac. Either way sufferers of the disease cannot ignore its symptoms as a permanent hearing loss can often be a lasting effect.