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What are the symptoms of Meniere’s disease?

Man in 50s

The symptoms of Ménière’s disease can be distressing, and the unpredictable nature of the condition can significantly affect quality of life. A correct diagnosis is important as this allows the most effective treatments to be used to try to minimise the effect of symptoms on the lives of those with the disease.

During an ‘attack’, people with Ménière’s disease usually experience a trio of symptoms:

  • spinning dizziness (vertigo)
  • noises in the ear (tinnitus)
  • hearing loss in the affected ear

The symptoms experienced can change over time.

Ménière’s disease occurs in repeated ‘attacks’ or episodes lasting from minutes to hours. The time between ‘attacks’ varies from weeks to years and is very unpredictable. Some people can tell an ‘attack’ is going to start because of a blocked feeling in the affected ear.

Usually, the disease affects only one ear, however the Ménière’s Society suggests that up to 50% of sufferers have a progression of the disease to affecting both ears. During an attack, people with the disease may be unable to carry on with their daily life until the symptoms have started to improve. They may also feel nauseous and might be sick.

If your GP suspects that you have Ménière’s disease, they will usually refer you to an ENT specialist for further assessment.

A hearing test is usually done which will show any hearing loss on the affected side. Ménière’s disease often causes a low pitch (low frequency) sensorineural hearing loss in the affected ear. The hearing loss may change during ‘attacks’ but usually becomes permanent with repeated damage. Your ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist might also request specialist balance (vestibular) testing which may help to identify the affected ear.

Other tests such as scans or blood tests might be done to help rule out other illnesses that may cause the three common symptoms of Ménière’s disease: vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss. A diagnosis is usually based partly upon the pattern of symptoms that an individual is suffering.

There is no cure for Ménière’s disease however there are medications and other treatments that may improve symptoms. If medication is found to improve the symptoms, the diagnosis can be more strongly confirmed.

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