Stories of people with Meniere’s disease are heart breaking. It must be one of the most debilitating conditions affecting quality of life and also destroy hearing. Statistically there is said to be only 0.2% of the population who have this disease however, there appears to be considerable mis-diagnosis and as many as 2% of people may suffer from it.
Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear which causes episodes of pressure in the ear resulting in dizziness and vomiting, as well as tinnitus and fluctuating hearing. Each attack usually lasts between two and four hours and once over, sufferers often need to sleep for several hours to combat exhaustion. While no one dies from Meniere’s, in severe cases the sufferer will experience what seems like a sudden imbalance often causing them to fall sometimes injuring themselves.
Meniere’s attacks frequently happen in clusters and then all symptoms usually disappear for days, months or even years at a time. Most people experience the disease in just one ear to start with but as many as 50% of people will get it in both ears. In the early stages of the disease symptoms abate once the episode is over and hearing returns to normal. But with continuing disease a feeling of imbalance may continue between episodes and hearing is irreparably damaged often resulting in total deafness.
While this disease and its causes are not fully understood it is thought to be related to immune system disorder which results in the fluid sacks in the delicate structure of the middle ear becoming bloated. The additional pressure this fluid causes pushes on the balance nerves thus resulting in the episodes or attacks of vertigo and balance problems.
Those who suffer badly may find they get attacks without warning which can severely limit their life quality, ensuring they cannot work, drive or even leave home by themselves. While having an attack they may not be able to walk, control their vomiting or even get themselves to bed so they can lie down. It can be frightening for family and friends to witness an attack so they should be informed about the best way they can help. Treatment is varied and only brings relief of symptoms rather than curing the disease.
Once hearing is lost a number of sufferers have had their hearing returned with a Cochlear Implant. In addition, once implanted these people generally do not suffer Meniere’s attacks again. Glenda was a Meniere’s sufferer. Her condition became chronic until she was having attacks as often as four times a week. She had to give up her job and became isolated and frustrated. (Read her story http://www.c-a-network.com/glenda.php ) Karin too had Meniere’s disease. Like Glenda she went through many treatments to find relief and she too found herself totally deafened. (Read Karin’s story http://www.c-a-network.com/karin.php)
The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown, the ‘cures’ and even relief can be radical and often as bad as the disease.