Meniere's Disease is a complicated condition that may have several underlying causes. It is believed to be caused by an excessive amount of fluid in the ear which causes symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss and clogged ears. Some possible underlying causes of tinnitus include an autoimmune disease, allergies, head trauma, migraines, viral infection or a blockage in the eustachian tube. This is a condition that affects my family personally as my Dad was diagnosed with it a few years ago.
Meniere's Disease can be both frustrating and frightening. Vertigo spells can occur, making a person feel like they are losing their grip on the world. The sensation of the world spinning around them can cause uncontrollable nausea and vomiting and may necessitate an ER visit. People can also be injured in what are called 'drop attacks', vertigo attacks that cause a person to fall. In addition to the vertigo spells, mild dizziness may be a constant part of someone's day, especially upon rising up from bed or moving their head. Nystagmus, also known as uncontrollable eye movements, are when the eyes move side to side or up and down uncontrollably. This can contribute to the feeling of dizziness as it causes your vision to bounce up and down or move side to side, making you feel like the world in front of you is moving in different directions. Unrelenting tinnitus may be the most frustrating part of Meniere's Disease. Many people who have this condition experience phantom noises that may range from a roaring or humming noise to a buzzing sound or chirping noises. The tinnitus may vary in volume and intensity but it can make people feel like they are going crazy. Coupled with progressive hearing loss, the tinnitus can affect people's ability to sleep and function normally.
Meniere's Disease can vary in severity which is why some people with the condition can function normally while other people are completely debilitated by it. Vertigo attacks may occur frequently or they may be separated by periods of months or years. No matter the severity, there are different steps you can take to help the condition. These range from conventional medical treatments to natural remedies.
Conventional treatments include diuretics and a low salt diet, believed to lower the amount of excess fluid in the ear. Hearing Aids may help with the hearing loss. In addition, there are also hearing aids that emit pink noise, which is a broadband frequency that can help reduce tinnitus. A Meniett device applies pulses of pressure to the ear canal to help inner ear fluid exchange. This has been shown to reduce vertigo, tinnitus and the sensation of clogged ears. Vestibular rehabilitation may help reduce falls and restore balance. Injections of an antibiotic may also help reduce vertigo but has been shown to cause hearing loss.
When Meniere's Disease is severe, surgery may be used. The Endolymphatic Sac procedure involves removing a portion of the mastoid bone and placing a shunt inside the ear to drain excess fluid. A labryinthectomy removes the portion of the inner ear that is responsible for balance. This procedure will cause deafness in the ear the surgery is performed and should be considered as a last resort. For a patient with extreme vertigo, Vestibular nerve section involves cutting the vestibular nerve which affects balance and movement. This surgery preserves hearing but is a major surgery involving general anesthesia.
A less invasive option may be chiropractic and craniopathy. If the Meniere's Disease is a result of the fluid not draining properly in the eustachian tube, upper cervical adjustments with chiropractic may help. If there is a misalignment with the top cervical vertebrae, it may obstruct the eustachian tube and prevent the fluid from draining. Correcting the misalignment through an adjustment will remove the obstruction and allow the fluid to drain properly. Craniopathy works to correct misalignments within the bones of the skull and help the cerebral spinal fluid inside the spinal cord flow properly. When the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid is obstructed, it can bring the body out of homeostasis and cause problems within the body. Correcting the misalignments within the bones of the skull removes the obstructions to the cerebral spinal fluid flow and brings the body back into balance. In addition, craniopathy often works to release restrictions within the sinus cavities and around the ear which can help open up the eustachian tube and help the fluid to drain properly.
Massage may also help. A study in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics found that deep tissue massage of the neck which included stretching significantly reduced tinnitus. Other massage techniques including craniosacral therapy, reiki and lymphatic drainage massage reduced fluid build up and increased circulation.
Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce the effects of Meniere's Disease. Acupuncture points around the ear and head can have an affect on vertigo and tinnitus. Regular acupuncture sessions involving treatment of those points may reduce some of the symptoms of Meniere's Disease.
Other natural options include treating seasonal allergies by eating raw honey (not recommended in children under one year of age) and drinking dandelion tea as it is a natural diuretic. Limiting salt, sugar and caffeine in your diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco and managing stress are all options that may help. Doing an elimination diet to rule out food allergies can also help. Breathing exercises may help to manage stress, as will listening to sounds that can be described as music therapy- relaxing music and nature sounds such as rain, the ocean surf or gentle wind.
While Meniere's Disease may leave sufferers feeling without hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Explore some of these remedies and find which ones work for you. There is hope. Don't give up.