Adjusting to life with Meniere’s disease
Have you, or has a loved one, been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease? It can be an overwhelming time, especially for the newly-diagnosed, but with the right healthcare partners and treatments, life can still be really good!
The key is to learn as much as you can about your condition and know how to access the right people to help you move forward positively.
Understanding Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear, that affects balance and causes hearing loss. It can affect one ear, or sometimes both. While symptoms vary from person to person, individuals can experience dizziness (vertigo), nausea, vomiting and compromised hearing during a Meniere’s ‘attack’. These symptoms are caused by a build-up of pressure inside the inner ear causing abnormal messages to be sent to the brain. An attack generally occurs without warning, and can last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours. The frequency of the attacks is also unpredictable – an individual could go several days between episodes, or even several years. It’s understandable that this unpredictability can make the disease distressing for its sufferers.
Meniere’s is a progressive disease, as during the unpredictable attacks the delicate cells in the affected ear suffer damage. Meniere’s is categorised by three stages; early, intermediate and late. In early stage Meniere’s disease, hearing usually returns to normal levels between attacks, but as the disease progresses, overall hearing levels will begin to decline.
During the intermediate stage of the disease, sufferers often begin to notice tinnitus, which is perceived ringing or other noises in the ear or ears. This can be a new and frustrating set of symptoms to deal with, but the upshot is that 17 to 20 per cent of Australians suffer from some degree of tinnitus! It’s a really common symptom of hearing system issues, and there is a wealth of information out there to help manage this particular symptom.
Towards the later stage, Meniere’s attacks will often feature less-severe vertigo symptoms, but hearing loss left untreated will be profound.
What can I do to treat Meniere’s Disease?
The great news is that Meniere’s disease treatments can reduce and control symptoms. In fact, 80% of people with the disease respond effectively to non-surgical treatments.
Treatment for Meniere’s is different for each individual, but would likely include a bespoke combination of medication, self-management techniques, diet and exercise, and even counselling. While your GP will be able to discuss specific elements of your treatment with you, an audiologist will help to manage symptoms like tinnitus and hearing loss.
To live your life to the full, it’s best to get on top of hearing loss before it gets on top of you! While people can sometimes be initially resistant to wearing hearing aids, modern day technology means that hearing aids are a lot less noticeable than a hearing loss! Treating one of the most pronounced external symptoms of Meniere’s disease will help you to participate fully in work, sport, and family life. Read up on the signs of hearing loss, to ensure you know what to look out for, and see an audiologist if you experience any of these. The earlier you treat hearing loss symptoms, the easier it is to adjust to hearing aid technology if this is the right pathway for you. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation when it comes to hearing technology. Meniere’s disease has a particular hearing loss profile associated with it – typically sufferers have problems hearing low frequencies or combined high and low frequencies, with normal hearing in the mid ranges. With that in mind, an audiologist will work with you to find the best hearing solution for this specific condition.
ihear even offers an online hearing test, which estimates your hearing age at home before you come in. It’s fascinating to see what the results reveal!
How can friends and family help?
Having the support of loved ones can go a long way to making life with Meniere’s disease better. It helps for those close to someone with the condition to learn more about the symptoms, and understand that their friend or family member might be completely fine one day, but the next could be in the midst of an attack. There will be times when a person with Meniere’s might not be able to undertake a commitment and plans might change. Having people around that are supportive of this, and will patiently allow space and time for recovery can help a sufferer immensely.
Even with Meniere’s disease, you can still live a full and active life. It’s all about smart symptom management. Book a free hearing check with your nearest ihear clinic to have your hearing health assessed. It’s quick, painless and easy, and can change your life for the better!