Ménière’s Disease – what is the difference between tinnitus and meniere’s disease

Ménière's Disease is a most unpleasant condition brought on by a disorder of the inner ear.

The symptoms of Ménière's Disease manifest themselves in episodes of severe vertigo during which a sense of intense self or environment rotation is experienced.

These vertigo attacks are generally proceeded by and subsequently combined with a sense of pressure affecting the inner ear. During an attack, progressive deafness, dizziness and a moderate to severe tinnitus can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sweating.

Ménièr's Disease is a long term progressive disease which affects both the balance and the hearing parts of the ear. The people most at risk of suffering Ménière's Disease are aged between 30 and 50 and those with a family history of the disease.

The disease affects about 1 person in 500 and there is no evidence of any differential between men and women. What is interesting is that there is a notably higher than normal incidence of the condition reported in Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Typically an attack of Ménière's Disease will last between a few minutes and a couple of hours although on occasion they may go on for up to 24 hours.

During a severe attack, the sufferer will be so debilitated that he has no alternative but to seek the comfort of his bed. The post-attack recovery is often affected by the uncertainty of when the next episode will have to be faced and can lead to a loss of confidence, anxiety and even depression. The impact on the patient’s lifestyle can be a destructive one.

Ménière's Disease is generally recognised as a long term disorder which in most cases starts in one ear. Attacks occur over a period of weeks or months with periods of remission between.

Fortunately for most sufferers, the incidence of attack will reduce over a number of years. For more than half of known sufferers after about two years the attacks generally become shorter and less intense and in some cases may even disappear altogether. However, it is commonly found that with the reduction in episodes of attack comes a noticeable loss in hearing and for some an appreciable increase in the volume of the associated tinnitus.

The precise cause of Ménière's Disease remains unknown although research has identified a commonality of an excessive build-up of fluid within the inner ear amongst most of those affected. The medical term for this fluid pressure in the inner ear is idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops.

The onset of Ménière's Disease can also be attributed to a middle ear infection, a head injury, stress, fatigue, some prescription drugs and excess of alcohol and smoking. Indeed the same group of causes as are associated with tinnitus and in the same way and for the same reason should be avoided wherever possible.

At this time there is no recognised cure for Ménière's Disease. Treatment is only levelled at reducing, controlling and helping with the symptoms. Various sedatives can be prescribed to help with vertigo attacks and some medicines influencing blood supply and fluid movements in the inner ear are available to control vertigo, but with varying degrees of success.

Treatment to help with hearing loss centres on the use of one or more hearing aids. These do deliver some improvement in hearing and if used with an integrated white noise generator can give an appreciable amount of tinnitus relief.

For many people, the sounds of tinnitus brought on by Ménière's Disease as well as the disease itself can be helped or reduced with a healthy lifestyle.

Avoiding stress and keeping a positive outlook goes a long way in this battle.

Reducing the intake of salt, alcohol and caffeine is universally recognised as being good for health as is removing any nicotine dependency.

Beyond this, there are a number of tinnitus treatments that whilst not working for everybody, have delivered partial or total tinnitus liberation for many. These treatments range from the use of white noise generators, natural vitamin supplements through to tinnitus retraining therapy programmes.

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