The inner ear is made up of two parts – the hearing organ (cochlea) and the balance system (vestibular system). Malfunction or inner ear disease may occur in one or both of the systems.
Symptoms of Inner Ear Disease
- 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 (feeling that you or your environment is turning or tumbling)
- Associated Nausea or Vomiting
Pain is not a symptom of Inner Ear Disease.
This is a viral infection of the inner ear that causes the sudden onset of spinning dizziness that lasts for several hours to days. This is followed by a period of unsteadiness that gradually resolves over several weeks.
Benign Positional Vertigo
Brought on by a change in position – especially lying down – this condition causes a spinning sensation that lasts for several seconds. It gradually resolves over 1-2 months, but recovery can be aided with specific exercises and inner ear repositioning maneuvers that can be performed by our EN&T specialists.
Meniere’s Disease (Endolymphatic Hydrops)
This disease is marked by recurring episodes of dizziness (spinning sensation) that last for several hours and associated with fullness and/or ringing in the ears. It can also cause nausea and vomiting. With this condition, hearing decreases with an acute episode and then gradually returns. Its recurrent nature makes it the most distressing of all inner ear conditions.
Causes of Meniere’s Disease – the delicate nerve tissue in the inner ear floats in a liquid medium, which is constantly being secreted and then reabsorbed. To the best of our knowledge, the problem is caused by reduced absorption of fluid where the membranes become distended and the nerve tissues become irritated, which causes the symptoms.
Causes of Dizziness
The causes of dizziness, which is 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 and dizziness.
Treatment for Inner Ear Disease
Once it’s determined that you have an inner ear problem, our specialists take a closer look beyond the inner ear to find the cause. Our primary concern in evaluating and treating inner ear disease is to ensure there are no underlying, serious, possible life-threatening problems.
Initially, medications can be prescribed for immediate relief of symptoms such as motion sickness and nausea. Diuretics can be used to correct fluid imbalances, and a low sodium diet is central in treating recurrent inner ear problems. Rarely, surgery is needed to treat conditions such as Meniere’s Disease. Our specialists will also work with your family physician to implement aggressive therapy for underlying causes such as circulatory imbalances and identifiable systemic or general metabolic disorders.
Even after you are diagnosed and treated, we follow up regularly with hearing assessments, as hearing loss can be a risk with inner ear disease. If there is indeed progressive hearing loss, more aggressive treatment may be needed.