Meniere’s Disease

Overview of Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can lead to dizzy spells (vertigo) and hearing loss. In most cases, Meniere’s disease affects only one ear. It can occur at any age, but it usually starts between young and middle-aged adulthood. It’s considered a chronic condition, but various treatments can help alleviate symptoms.

Meniere’s disease is known for its characteristic symptoms, including vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and aural fullness (feeling fullness or pressure in your ear).

The exact cause of Meniere’s disease isn’t known, but it’s believed to be related to the volume and composition of fluid in the inner ear. The inner ear is a complex system of canals filled with fluid. This fluid helps to regulate your balance and hearing. Changes in the volume or the pressure of this fluid can lead to Meniere’s disease symptoms.

Diagnosing Meniere’s disease typically involves a review of your symptoms and medical history, along with hearing tests. There may also be tests to assess your balance and exclude other conditions that could cause your symptoms.

While there’s no cure for Meniere’s disease, treatments can help manage symptoms. These may include diet and lifestyle changes, medications, therapy, injections, and surgery.

Living with Meniere’s disease can be challenging, especially when it comes to coping with vertigo attacks and hearing loss. Working closely with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that suits your specific needs is essential. Many people find that they can lead relatively normal lives despite their diagnosis with the proper management strategies.

About the Inner Ear

The inner ear is an elaborate structure responsible for hearing and balance, located deep within the skull. It consists of two main parts: the cochlea, which helps you hear, and the vestibular system, which enables you to maintain balance.

The cochlea is a snail-shaped, fluid-filled tube that transforms sound vibrations from the outer ear into signals your nerves carry. These signals are sent to your brain via the auditory nerve, allowing you to hear. The cochlea contains tiny hair cells that move in response to sound vibrations, initiating the process of converting these vibrations into electrical impulses.

The vestibular system includes three semicircular canals and two otolith organs (the saccule and utricle). The semicircular canals detect rotational movements of the head, such as turning or spinning. The otolith organs detect linear acceleration movements, such as forward motion, backward motion, and gravitational forces (up and down). Together, these structures send information to the brain about the body’s position and motion, helping to maintain balance and spatial orientation.

In essence, the inner ear is like a sophisticated sensor system. The cochlea picks up sound waves and translates them into something the brain can understand as sound. At the same time, the vestibular system tracks the head and body’s movements, keeping you balanced and oriented in space. This dual function is crucial for everyday activities, from understanding speech to walking straight or knowing which way is up or down.

doctor talking through form with senior patient

Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can significantly impact your balance and hearing. The symptoms can vary from person to person and can fluctuate in severity. Here are the key symptoms associated with Meniere’s disease:

  • Vertigo: This is often the most noticeable symptom. Vertigo feels like you or everything around you is spinning. It can be severe and sudden, leading to loss of balance. These episodes can last from 20 minutes to several hours, but usually not longer than 24 hours. During an attack, you might also feel nauseated or vomit.
  • Hearing Loss: Hearing loss may be transient early in the disease but can become more permanent over time. You might notice difficulty hearing low tones or reduced hearing clarity in the affected ear. Hearing loss in Meniere’s disease often fluctuates, especially early in the disease.
  • Tinnitus: This is a ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in the ear, which is a common symptom for people with Meniere’s disease. Tinnitus might become more pronounced or noticeable before or during a vertigo attack.
  • Aural Fullness: You may feel a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear affected by Meniere’s disease, akin to the feeling you get in your ears during a flight or when underwater.

These symptoms can vary in intensity and may not always occur together. Vertigo attacks, in particular, can be unpredictable, affecting your daily activities and overall quality of life. It’s also worth noting that the symptoms of Meniere’s disease can be similar to those of other conditions, making accurate diagnosis important.

Treatments for Meniere’s Disease

Treating Meniere’s disease is mainly about managing symptoms, as there’s currently no cure for the condition. The goal is to reduce the severity and frequency of vertigo attacks, manage hearing loss, and minimize tinnitus and the sensation of aural fullness. Treatment strategies can vary widely among individuals, depending on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Here are the main approaches to managing Meniere’s disease:

Lifestyle Changes and Symptom Management

Reducing salt intake can lower fluid retention in the body, potentially decreasing the pressure within the inner ear. Limiting caffeine and alcohol might also reduce symptoms for some people.

Stress can exacerbate symptoms, so meditation, yoga, or counseling can be beneficial.

Some people notice certain triggers for their vertigo attacks, such as specific foods, dehydration, or lack of sleep. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help.


During acute vertigo attacks, medications such as meclizine, diazepam, or other anti-nausea drugs can provide relief.

Sometimes, doctors prescribe diuretics (water pills) to help reduce fluid retention in the body and potentially decrease fluid volume in the inner ear.


Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) improves balance and reduces dizziness-related problems. A form of physical therapy, VRT is particularly helpful if Meniere’s disease affects your balance between attacks.

Procedures and Surgeries

Medications, such as gentamicin (an antibiotic) or steroids, can be injected into the middle ear to reduce vertigo in a process called intratympanic injections. Gentamicin reduces vertigo but can cause hearing loss, while steroids have a lower risk of hearing loss.

Your doctor or care team may consider surgery in severe cases where other treatments don’t control vertigo. These can range from procedures that relieve fluid pressure in the ear to more radical surgeries that affect the inner ear’s function or the nerve pathways that connect your ear to your brain.

Hearing Aids

If Meniere’s disease has caused you to lose your ability to hear, your ability to hear and understand speech may be helped by hearing aids.

Mental Health Support

Living with Meniere’s disease can be challenging. Support from counselors or groups can help you cope with the condition’s impact on your life.

The appropriate treatment plan varies significantly from person to person, depending on the specific symptoms and how the disease affects your daily life. Working closely with your healthcare provider to tailor a treatment strategy that best meets your needs is essential. With the right management approach, many people with Meniere’s disease can lead active and fulfilling lives.

Common Questions about Meniere’s Disease

How common is Meniere’s disease?

Meniere’s disease is relatively uncommon. The prevalence of Meniere’s disease varies by region and population, but it’s generally estimated to affect between 0.3 to 1.9 per 1,000 people. This condition can occur at any age but most commonly starts between 20 and 50. Both men and women can be affected by Meniere’s disease, with no significant gender difference in its occurrence.

Because the symptoms of Meniere’s disease can overlap with other conditions, it may sometimes be underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This factor can make determining the exact number of individuals affected by Meniere’s disease challenging.

Does Meniere’s disease go away on its own?

Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition, meaning it does not typically go away independently. The symptoms of Meniere’s disease, such as vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness in the affected ear, can vary in intensity and may come and go over time. Some individuals may experience periods of remission, where symptoms lessen or temporarily cease, but these periods can be unpredictable.

There is no cure for Meniere’s disease. Still, treatments and management strategies can help reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. These can include lifestyle changes (like diet modifications to reduce sodium intake), medications to manage vertigo and nausea, hearing aids for hearing loss, and, in some cases, surgery for severe cases.

The course of Meniere’s disease can vary widely among individuals. Some people may find their symptoms less severe over time, while others may experience ongoing or worsening symptoms. Individuals with Meniere’s disease need to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their specific symptoms and needs.

Monitoring and managing the condition with the help of a healthcare provider is crucial for maintaining quality of life and minimizing the impact of the disease on daily activities.

What happens if Meniere’s disease is not treated?

If Meniere’s disease is left untreated, the symptoms can persist and potentially worsen over time, leading to various complications and impacts on quality of life. Here are some of the potential consequences of untreated Meniere’s disease:

  • Persistent Vertigo: Without treatment, the vertigo episodes associated with Meniere’s disease can continue or become more severe, affecting your ability to perform daily activities, work, or drive safely. Severe vertigo can increase the risk of falls and accidents.
  • Progressive Hearing Loss: Meniere’s disease can lead to a progressive decline in hearing in the affected ear(s). Untreated, this hearing loss may worsen, potentially becoming permanent and significantly impairing your communication ability.
  • Persistent Tinnitus: The ringing, buzzing, or other noises associated with tinnitus can continue or become more bothersome, contributing to distress, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances.
  • Emotional and Mental Health Impact: The unpredictability and disruptive nature of Meniere’s disease symptoms can lead to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation if not adequately managed.
  • Balance Problems: Chronic imbalance and dizziness can persist, affecting mobility and safety and making it difficult to navigate daily life.

It’s important to note that while there is no cure for Meniere’s disease, various treatments and management strategies can help control symptoms and improve quality of life. Regular follow-up with healthcare providers specializing in ear disorders is crucial for managing the disease effectively.

Early and proactive management of Meniere’s disease can help mitigate its impact, reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms and helping individuals maintain their daily activities and overall well-being.

Medically Reviewed by Terry D. Fife, MD on March 27, 2024

Information and Resources for Meniere’s Disease

Vestibular Disorders Association – Meniere’s Disease

NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

NHS: Meniere’s Disease

American Head and Neck Society

NIH National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet

Group 49
  Years Old
Meneire’s disease usually starts between 20 and 50 years old
Group 49
  New Cases per Year
About 45,500 new cases of Meniere’s disease are diagnosed each year


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