Inner Ear Disease


The inner ear is made up of two parts – the hearing organ (cochlea) and the balance system (vestibular system). Malfunction (disease) may occur in one or both of the systems.

 

Symptoms


Disease of the cochlea can cause:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (noise)
  • Feeling of fullness/pressure in the ear

Disease of the balance system can cause:

  • Unsteadiness, wooziness, or dizziness
  • Vertigo (a feeling that you or your environment is turning or tumbling).
  • Associated nausea or vomiting

Pain is not a symptom of inner ear disease.

 

 





Conditions, Causes and Treatment

Viral Labyrinthitis


Viral infection of the inner ear that causes the sudden onset of spinning dizziness that lasts for several hours to days. Followed by a period of unsteadiness that gradually resolves over several weeks.

Benign Positional Vertigo


Spinning sensation lasting for several seconds, brought on by changed in position, especially lying down. Gradually resolves over 1 – 2 months, but recovery can be aided by using exercises and inner ear repositioning maneuvers that can be performed by an ENT specialist.

 

Meniere’s Disease


(endolymphatic hydrops) Recurring episodes of dizziness (spinning) lasting for several hours associated with fullness and/or ringing in the ears. Nausea and vomiting are also seen. The hearing decreases with an acute episode and gradually returns. Its recurrent nature makes it the most distressing of all inner ear conditions.

Causes of Dizziness


Other associated causes of dizziness, more often characterized as light-headedness or near passing out episodes, are numerous. Foremost among these are cardiovascular problems, although elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, hormonal imbalance and autoimmune diseases can also be associated with balance problems.

Treatment


Once it is ascertained that there is an inner ear dysfunction, it is appropriate to then look more systemically beyond the inner ear for the cause.

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Initially, medications for symptomatic relief are prescribed, such as motion sickness and anti-nausea medications. Diuretics to correct the fluid imbalances, and a low sodium diet are central to the treatment of recurrent inner ear problems. Rarely, surgery is indicated for refractory causes of Meniere’s disease. Aggressive therapy for any identifiable systemic or general metabolic or circulatory imbalances will also be implemented, with the help of a family physician.

 

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Our primary concern in evaluating and treating inner ear disease is to ensure that there is not an underlying, serious, possible life-threatening problem. We will follow you periodically in the office to assess your hearing, which may be a risk with inner ear disease. More aggressive treatment may be indicted if there is progressive hearing loss.