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Home > Services > Ear, Nose and Throat > ENT Conditions > Meniere's Disease

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's disease is a disorder of the labyrinth in the inner ear that causes vertigo, tinnitus and hearing problems. The labyrinth is a system of cavities and canals in the inner ear that affects hearing, balance and eye movement.

The Inner Ear
The Inner Ear

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Causes of Meniere's disease

The cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, but it is thought to originate from a combination of factors. Possible causes include:

  • Rupture in part of the labyrinth, which allows fluid in different compartments to mix
  • Scar tissue, which may cause a blockage in the labyrinth
  • Inner ear injury

Meniere's Disease Risk

Meniere's disease is more common in adults aged 20 - 60 years and in Caucasians. Other factors that may increase your risk of getting Meniere's disease include:

  • Family history
  • Viral infection
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Barometric pressure change
  • Stress
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Allergies
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy agents
  • Excess salt in the diet
  • Excess noise

Meniere's Disease Symptoms

Meniere's disease may cause fluctuating symptoms, which may come on suddenly. They typically involve only one ear, but may involve both. Symptoms include:

  • Episodes of vertigo, a spinning sensation while standing still. Vertigo may be accompanied by:
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Sweating
    • Paleness of the skin
    • Weakness or falling
    • In some cases, headache or diarrhea
  • Fluctuating hearing loss
  • Tinnitus, a ringing in one or both ears
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Poor sense of balance
  • A tendency for symptoms to worsen with movement

Diagnosing Meniere's Disease

Diagnosis includes an exam of your ears and a neurologic exam to evaluate for possible nerve damage.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Hearing test
  • Electronystagmogram — looks for abnormal eye movements
  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Electrocochleogram — to check function of the hearing organ in the inner ear
  • MRI — to look at internal structures of the ear

Treatment for Meniere's Disease

No cure for Meniere's disease exists. Treatment focuses on managing your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. 

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Dietary changes include:

  • Avoid foods that are high in salt and high in sugar
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Drink adequate fluids
  • Reduce alcohol intake

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Bed rest during acute attacks of vertigo
  • Promptly begin replacing fluids lost to heat or exercise
  • Minimize stress
  • Avoid medications that seem to bring on or worsen symptoms
  • Consider a hearing aid, if necessary
  • Consider masking devices (white noise) to limit the effects of tinnitus
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can quit
  • Take safety measures to avoid falling

Vestibular Rehabilitation

Your doctor may suggest specific vestibular exercises. These exercises use a series of eye, head and body movements to get the body used to moving without dizziness. You may work with a physical therapist to learn these.


Consider working with a therapist or joining a support group. These can help you to cope with your symptoms.


Your doctor may recommend:

  • Medcations to treat vertigo
  • Antiemetics to control nausea
  • Medications that may improve hearing, control inner ear swelling or limit overall symptoms, including:
    • Antihistamines
    • Diuretics
    • Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
    • Cortisone drugs for a short time
  • Aminoglycoside therapy to permanently destroy the part of the inner ear that deals with balance


Ask your doctor if a Meniett device would be helpful to you. This device provides low pressure pulses to the middle ear.

Surgical procedures, while not always helpful, include:

  • Endolymphatic sac decompression — removal of a portion of inner ear bone and placing a tube in the inner ear to drain excess fluid
  • Labyrinthectomy — destruction or removal of the entire inner ear, which controls balance and hearing
  • Vestibular nerve section

Preventing Meniere's Disease

There are no current guidelines to prevent Meniere's disease. However, to help reduce your risk, avoid the following risk factors:

  • High-salt and high-sugar diets
  • Excess noise
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Medications toxic to the ear


Call 434.243.3675.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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