Ménière’s disease (idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops) is a rare inner ear disorder. It affects your sense of balance and hearing. Left untreated, Ménière’s disease symptoms get worse over time and may cause permanent hearing loss and ongoing balance issues. Ménière’s disease is typically treated with medication to reduce symptoms.
Ménière’s disease (idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops) is a rare inner ear disorder. It affects your sense of balance and hearing. Left untreated, Ménière’s disease symptoms get worse over time and may cause permanent hearing loss and ongoing balance problems. Healthcare providers typically treat Ménière’s disease with medication that eases symptoms.
Ménière’s disease isn’t a life-threatening illness, but it can affect quality of life. People who have this disorder may struggle with symptoms that happen without warning, come back time and again, and may disrupt their daily lives. Here is more information about Ménière’s disease symptoms:
No, it’s rare. According to the most recent data from National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 615,000 people in the United States have the disorder. (There are more than 330 million people in the United States.)
Ménière’s disease typically affects people ages 40 to 60. About 7% to 10% of people have a family history of this disorder.
The four main symptoms are:
Other symptoms include:
Healthcare providers know Ménière’s disease symptoms happen when endolymph, a fluid in your inner ear, builds up and disrupts the delicate process your body uses to manage balance and hearing. They don’t know why endolymph levels rise.
Endolymph is like a translator. It interprets outside airwaves and sends signals that your brain and inner ear use to allow you to hear and maintain your balance. When there’s too much endolymph in your inner ear, those signals become scrambled so your brain can’t manage your sense of balance and hearing.
Some people have a family history of Ménière’s disease, which means people may inherit the condition.
Healthcare providers will examine your ears and ask about hearing loss, tinnitus or a sense of fullness in one or both of your ears. They may ask if you have regular bouts of vertigo and hearing loss. If you do have those problems, they’ll ask if those bouts are severe and how long they last. They may do tests to rule out other potential conditions and confirm you have Ménière’s disease:
Healthcare providers may start with treatments to reduce pressure on your inner ear from high endolymph levels. They may also prescribe medications to help with vertigo, including:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved pressure pulse treatment to treat vertigo. This treatment uses a device that fits in your outer ear to “puff” air pressure on your middle ear. Air pressure on your middle ear may affect endolymph levels.
Healthcare providers may recommend cognitive therapy to help people cope with the stress, anxiety and depression Ménière’s disease may cause.
If other treatments don’t reduce symptoms, healthcare providers may use surgery to treat very severe cases of Ménière’s disease. Surgical options include redirecting or relieving the pressure from the inner ear fluid, such as:
No, but if you have Ménière’s disease, you can reduce your risk the disease will worsen. Contact your healthcare provider if you suddenly develop dizzy spells that may be vertigo. These symptoms may indicate Ménière’s disease. Some people have family members with this disease. If that’s your situation, ask your healthcare provider about monitoring your overall health for indications you’re developing Ménière’s disease.
Ménière’s disease may go away for months or years, but it always comes back. Healthcare providers have medication and other treatments that reduce vertigo symptoms, but Ménière’s disease is a chronic illness that never really goes away.
You can do several things to reduce Ménière’s disease symptoms, including:
If you’re receiving treatment, contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse
Ménière’s disease is a rare illness, which means you may have many questions about the condition. Questions you may want to ask include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have Ménière’s disease, you may feel like you’re being stalked by a disease that jumps out at you when you least expect it. Ménière’s disease symptoms — vertigo attacks and hearing problems — happen without warning and can be very severe. In particular, vertigo makes you feel dizzy, disoriented and nauseated. You may feel like you can’t live a normal life because you don’t know when you’ll have another attack. You may struggle with anxiety, waiting for and worrying about the next bout. Fortunately, healthcare providers have treatments that reduce Ménière’s disease symptoms, including vertigo. They also understand how this condition may affect your mental health. If you have this disease, ask your healthcare provider about programs and services to help you cope.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/27/2022.
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