Autoimmune diseases

Ménière’s disease

What is Ménière’s disease?

Ménière’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear. The inner ear is involved in the entire hearing process and also contains the balance organ. Ménière's disease causes problems such as hearing loss, dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Ménière's disease usually comes in attacks. In other words, the above symptoms come on suddenly without warning.

What causes Ménière's disease?

The exact cause of Ménière's disease has not yet been identified, but we do know that it involves a disorder of the cochlea, which is often the underlying cause of hearing loss. The cochlea is part of the inner ear and is filled with fluid. The cochlea consists of several compartments. The middle and top compartments are separated by a membrane. In the case of Ménière's disease, so much fluid accumulates in the cochlea that it presses against the membrane. The pressure can become so great that the membrane ruptures, causing the fluid in the middle compartment to combine with the fluid in the top compartment. This causes a Ménière’s attack. Dizziness is an indication that the balance organ is affected. Hearing loss and tinnitus are a result of the problems caused by excess fluid in the middle membrane.

Why the body produces too much fluid in the middle compartment remains unknown. Ménière's disease does not seem to be hereditary.

Symptoms related to Ménière's disease

Ménière's disease is mainly characterised by periodic attacks. Initially, there are no complaints between attacks. This complaint-free period can vary from a few hours to even a few years. Over time, some patients continue to suffer hearing loss or tinnitus between attacks. The frequency of the attacks generally decreases over time. The following symptoms can occur during a Ménière’s attack;

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pallor
  • Sweating
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Distortion of sounds
  • Reduced hearing

The attacks can intensify over the years, but always stop of their own accord. Notably, the attacks occur more often during moments of rest. Some people feel an attack coming on. When the disease first occurs, the tinnitus is often a throbbing or buzzing sensation. At a later stage, the tinnitus is more a rustling sensation.

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