by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Meniere’s Disease is actually a syndrome (collection of symptoms) including a fluctuating hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear. Meniere’s Disease affects in excess of 2.6 million people in North America and Europe. For most people with Meniere’s, the vertigo is the most debilitating aspect of the disease.
Meniere’s Disease is thought to be caused by excessive fluid (called endolymph) in the inner ear. (The fancy name for this is endolymphatic hydrops.) Therefore, typical treatments have focused on things to reduce fluid retention in the body such as a very low sodium diet, eliminating or greatly reducing both caffeine and alcohol consumption and typically also taking a diuretic (water pill).
If these measures don’t work, then doctors have a number of other things they can try, but all of them can have nasty side effects and may not work. Some of these include intratympanic corticosteroids (injecting steroids through the eardrum), endolymphatic sac shunt (invasive and not found to be very effective) and intratympanic Gentamicin (injecting Gentamicin through the ear drum which can result in hearing loss while controlling the balance problems). If all else fails, doctors may cut the vestibular nerve to totally destroy balance on the one side (vestibular nerve section) or surgically remove the whole balance system on one side (labyrinthectomy). These are rather drastic measures and leave the person with a weakened balance system as the other ear’s balance system has to do all the work.
In recent years, there has been another treatment that has proven to cut the frequency and severity of Meniere’s attacks way down, yet is only minimally invasive (tube in eardrum) and has not shown other negative side effects. This is called Meniett Therapy.
With Meniett Therapy, the person first has a tube placed in the eardrum on the affected side. Then, 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time, the person uses the Meniett device (a digitally- controlled, pager-sized low-pressure pulse generator) to deliver low-pressure pulses to the middle ear via a clear plastic tube with a special ear tip that you put in your ear. These low- pressure pulses act on the round window membrane. Doctors believe that the energy of the low-pressure pulses displaces the perilymph (the other inner ear fluid), which in turn stimulates the flow of the endolymph, and results in a reduction of the endolymphatic fluid, thus relieving the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease.
If you have Meniere’s Disease and are having problems keeping the attacks under control, you might want to investigate whether Meniett Therapy will help you. The doctor best able to help you is an ear specialist called an otologist.
To learn more about Meniere’s Disease and how you can help bring it under control click on the above link.