Meniere's disease is a medical condition affecting the inner ear and causing repeated episodes of vertigo and tinnitus. Patients may additionally experience a feeling of fullness in the ear and even fluctuating hearing loss. Many patients only experience symptoms of the disease in one ear.
It is confirmed that Meniere's disease predominantly occurs in people older than 40 an younger than 60. The condition, however, may affect individuals of all ages, including children.
In spite of not being curable, Meniere's disease is still treatable and with suitable treatment modality it can be brought under control. With proper approach patients suffering from Meniere's disease may lead normal lives and participate in every day activities without being restricted by the condition.
Meniere's Disease - Tests and Diagnosis
In order for the condition to be diagnosed, a person must experience at least two spontaneous episodes of vertigo. Vertigo also must last at least 20 minutes. Furthermore, hearing loss should be detected by a hearing test during an episode of vertigo. It is also important to experience tinnitus (ringing in the ear). Aural fullness may be of additional help. Finally, once the previously mentioned is reported, there is also need to exclude other causes of these sensory problems and one is eventually diagnosed with Meniere's disease.
Patient's medical history is also thoroughly studied. The individual must additionally undergo a complete physical examination.Hearing and Balance Assessment
A hearing test detects hearing loss (if there is any) and determines the extent of hearing loss. This test is also very helpful when it comes to identifying whether the hearing problem is in the inner ear or affect the auditory nerve.
As for balance assessment, patients undergo several tests. The most commonly performed is electronystagmography (ENG). ENG is of major importance for evaluation of balance. This is achieved by assessing eye movement. Namely, balance-related sensors in the inner ear are connected to eye muscles. During the test, specially designed electrodes are placed near the eyes and on the forehead. What follows is stimulation of the inner ear by cool water, warm or cool air, all of which are introduced into the ear canal. By measuring involuntary eye movements, doctors check patient's response (eye movements) and may successfully confirm whether there is some problems with the inner ear.
Rotatory-chair testing is similar to ENG because it evaluated eye movements. But this time the person is placed in a special rotating chair and by moving the chair, one's inner ear gets stimulated.
Finally, there are two more test performed, vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) and posturography.
In order to rule out other potential causes of symptoms, doctors additionally perform MRI, CT scan and auditory brainstem response audiometry.