Feeling Dizzy? It May Signal Meniere’s Disease

The source of your dizzy spells may be an inner ear condition called Meniere's Disease.

The source of your dizzy spells may be an inner ear condition called Meniere’s Disease.

If you’re prone to experiencing dizzy spells, it may be a sign of an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease. Named for the French physician Prosper Ménière, who, in an article published in 1861, first reported that vertigo was caused by inner ear disorders, the condition can cause any of these primary symptoms:

  • Vertigo: Spontaneous and recurring episodes of vertigo, a sensation similar to that of spinning around quickly several times, then stopping suddenly, are a common and troubling symptom of Meniere’s Disease. You may feel as if the room is still spinning and possibly lose your balance. These episodes come on without warning and typically last between 20 minutes and two hours, though they can persist up to 24 hours. Severe vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Hearing loss: In the early stages of the disease, hearing loss may fluctuate. But most victims eventually experience some degree of permanent hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is the perception of a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or hissing sound in your ear.
  • Fullness or pressure: Those with Meniere’s disease often feel aural fullness or increased pressure in the ear.

Meniere’s Disease is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the volume, pressure and chemical composition of fluid in the ear. Factors that can alter the properties of inner ear fluid and may trigger the disease include migraine headaches, trauma to the head, allergies, an abnormal immune response, a viral infection or improper fluid draining, typically caused by a blockage or anatomic abnormality.

Of all the symptoms, vertigo arguably is the most debilitating, as it can cause a victim to lose time from work, family, social and other obligations. It also boosts the risk of potentially dangerous falls, accidents while driving or operating heavy machinery and bouts of emotional stress, depression or anxiety.

Meniere’s Disease primarily affects people in their 40s and 50s, but it can strike at any age, even during childhood. Although it’s considered a chronic disease, it can be treated. Specialists at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat can develop a customized treatment plan designed to relieve symptoms and minimize long-term impact of the condition on your daily life. If you or your dependent suffer any of the symptoms men tioned, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a consultation.

Preventable Causes of Tinnitus

Multiple common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

Multiple common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

It’s enough to drive you batty – that persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing or chirping sound in your ears. Luckily, the condition known as tinnitus can be managed with specially designed hearing aids that allow patients to adjust their preferred sound stimulus. But as they say, prevention is the best cure. Fortunately, several of the most common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

The delicate hairs located in your inner ear move with the pressure of sound waves. That movement triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal via an auditory nerve to your brain. Tinnitus occurs when those tiny hairs are bent or broken, sending random electrical pulses to your brain.

Common preventable causes of tinnitus include:

  • Exposure to loud noise from heavy equipment, firearms and extended listening to loud music, especially through earphones;
  • Earwax buildup and blockage. The purpose of earwax is to protect your ear canal by trapping dust and dirt, and to impede bacterial growth. But when too much earwax accumulates, it can be tough to wash away naturally;
  • Taking medications including certain antibiotics, cancer medications, water pills, quinine medications and antidepressants, or taking aspirin in unusually high doses;
  • Head or neck injuries, often caused by falls, automobile accidents or failure to wear proper safety gear when playing sports;
  • Repeated movement or exercise that places the neck in a hyper-extended position, such as when riding a bicycle;
  • Severe weight loss from malnutrition or excessive dieting;
  • High blood pressure, often brought on by stress;
  • Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

Protect your ears by wearing earplugs when you know you’ll be around heavy equipment or firearms; playing music at a reasonable volume and avoiding wearing earphones; varying your exercise routine; managing stress and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake. If you do develop persistent tinnitus, call 904-461-6060 and schedule an appointment with a specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

Hearing Aids for Ringing in the Ears?

Ringing in the ears or tinnitus is the perception of a sound (i.e. – ringing, high-pitched whining, buzzing, whistling or hissing) that does not have a corresponding external source. Although tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious medical problem, neurological injury, earwax buildup, withdrawal from certain drugs or ear infections, the most common cause is noise-induced hearing loss. A doctor, ENT specialist or audiologist is needed to rule out potential medical or physical sources that may be causing the sounds a patient perceives.

Xino Tinnitus Hearing Aid - A new solution for ringing in the ears.

Xino Tinnitus Hearing Aid – A new solution for ringing in the ears.

Since it is a subjective irregularity, tinnitus can be difficult to measure using an objective hearing assessment. For some people, the ringing in their ears is infrequent or only produces a faint background noise. For others the condition causes a constant noise that can be so intense that the sensation can still be heard over a very loud external sound. However, many patients who suffer from the annoying condition understand all too well how debilitating tinnitus can be.

The pressing need for relief of benign conditions has led medical researchers to look for better ways to manage the otologic condition rather than cure it. As there is a high correlation between tinnitus and hearing loss, major manufacturers of assistive listening devices, such as Starkey®, have developed a tinnitus solution (Xino Tinnitus) that also functions as a high-end hearing aid, or can be configured for use as either. The state-of-the-art device features 16 adjustable frequency bands that allow the hearing specialist to create a preferred sound therapy stimulus for each patient. Additionally, the Xino Tinnitus hearing aids feature both binaural and monaural controls.

Patients use a BTE (behind the ear) hearing aid with a mini receiver-in-canal (RIC) to personalize their sound therapy stimulus independently of the amplification needed for volume control. Within a selected frequency, a hearing specialist can adjust the spectrum of noise from broadband to narrowband to tailor the results for each patient. If you sufferer from ringing in the ears, contact St. Augustine ENT to determine if you are a good candidate for a tinnitus hearing aid.