How Meniere's Affects Everyday Life
Like many other hearing and ear disorders, Meniere's disease is considered a chronic long-term condition. While there are management techniques that can help improve your symptoms and make it easier to control attacks, chances are you’ll be dealing with the long-term symptoms and impacts of Meniere’s.
Whether you have been recently diagnosed with Meniere’s or have a family member who has been diagnosed with the disorder it's important to understand how the disorder can affect day-to-day life and what the symptoms look like over time.
Meniere’s Disease Symptoms
Meniere’s disease comes with a lot of different symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary a lot from person to person as the disease progresses. Usually, some symptoms, like the hearing loss associated with Meniere's disease, are progressive, while some other symptoms and disorders may be more stable.
One of the most obvious initial symptoms of Meniere’s is shared with a lot of other ear disorders, vertigo. Meniere’s attack vertigo usually lasts more than 20 minutes but less than 24 hours. Patients must have experienced at least 2 vertigo attacks, and have other possible causes ruled out, as one of the basic diagnostic criteria for Meniere’s disease.
Other symptoms include:
- Progressive Hearing Loss (Usually of one ear)
- Full feeling of the ear, or inner ear pressure
- Extreme vertigo causing a fall or ‘drop attack’
Unfortunately, the symptoms of Meniere's disease can be hard to predict and track. While some patients may get a sense of the disease and when they are more or less likely to have an episode of vertigo, others have a more random pattern of attacks.
It's possible to have long periods between attacks of vertigo or tinnitus, but it's also to have attacks clustered so that you have several distinct attacks of Meniere's disease for a couple of days.
Secondary symptoms like nausea as a result of the vertigo are also common. Unfortunately, since drop attacks are often unpredictable, injuries as a result of an unexpected fall are also common for people with Meniere's disease.
Meniere’s and Driving
One of the biggest changes for many people diagnosed with Meniere’s disease is that driving is not recommended for anyone prone to Meniere’s attacks. The more severe and sudden the attack, the less likely a person with Meniere’s will be allowed to drive.
Much like seizure disorders, there is simply too much risk that someone with active and uncontrolled Meniere's would lose control of their vehicle because of an attack.
However, patients who can more accurately predict an attack may still drive, so it is possible to have Meniere's disease and still be a driver. It's just important to monitor your symptoms and to pull over immediately if you think you are in danger of having a Meniere's attack while driving.
Meniere’s and Anxiety
In addition to the other symptoms that are caused by Meniere's disease, a significant number of people dealing with Meniere's disease also have clinical symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. More than 60% of Meniere’s patients also show symptoms of these mental disorders.
It’s unclear how much of that is a matter of one disease having similar causes to the other, and how much is as a result of decreased quality of life and increased uncertainty in the lives of Meniere’s patients.
It’s easy to see why people who are dealing with a chronic life-altering disease tend to have higher rates of anxiety or depression, especially with diseases like Meniere’s that are progressive, affect your basic sense (hearing) and can be unpredictable.
People who have a history of drop attacks, sudden extreme vertigo that causes them to feel like they are falling, or causes them to actually fall, may also have increased anxiety simply because of the difficult and unpredictable nature of Meniere’s attacks.
Naturally, treatment is incredibly important when you're dealing with a disorder that can be as disruptive and potentially harmful and Meniere's disease.
The good news is that Meniere’s disease does often get better, roughly 6 in 10 patients will eventually see natural improvement in their symptoms or will be able to make lifestyle changes that give them greater control over their symptoms and allow them to live more normally.
Treatment can include diet, medication, and devices. Some people may seek relief from vertigo and other symptoms using our High Fidelity Earplugs or Slide Earplugs to help prevent outside noises from worsening their symptoms.
Motion sickness medications and anti-nausea medications are both often used to help treat the immediate symptoms of a Meniere’s attack. Doctors may also prescribe a diuretic to help reduce fluid retention, and Meniere’s patients will generally be advised to reduce their sodium intake to help improve symptoms.
Rehabilitation therapies are also common to help patients maintain or redevelop their natural sense of balance.
Hearing aids are common as the hearing loss associated with the disease progresses to help restore a more balanced and normal sense of hearing to the affected ear.
Positive pressure therapies are also being used to help treat stubborn cases of vertigo and tinnitus associated with Meniere’s disease, but studies are mixed on the actual benefits of the treatment.
In extreme cases, surgery may be considered to relieve symptoms. However, since removing the portions of the inner ear that cause symptoms also results in total hearing loss in that ear, surgery is usually reserved for the most severe cases and for patients who already have total or near-total hearing loss in their affected ear.
Can Meniere’s Make You Tired?
Yes, Meniere’s can make you tired, especially right after an attack. It’s unclear whether the fatigue associated with Meniere’s is because of the disease itself or if the cause is more related to life disruption and fatigue caused by the symptoms, but it’s common for people with Meniere’s to be tired.
A lot of doctors think that the tiredness that comes from Meniere’s disease is more about life disruption and the unpredictability of symptoms, but that doesn’t make that tiredness any less real. Treating tiredness appropriately with rest and relaxation is important for people dealing with Meniere’s disease.
Can Meniere’s Be Cured?
No, unfortunately, there is no cure for Meniere's disease. Many treatments can make living with Meniere's disease easier and minimize the symptoms and progression of the disorder, but nothing will cure the underlying causes or eliminate the symptoms entirely. Hearing loss especially is likely to be permanent once it occurs.