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General Information

DEFINITION--Increased fluid in the inner ear's semicircular canals, which normally help maintain balance. Excess fluid produces pressure in the inner ear, disturbing balance and sometimes reducing hearing.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Semicircular canals of the inner ear, usually on one side only (80-85%).


  • Both sexes, but slightly more common in women.
  • Adults between ages 30 and 60.


    The following occur with every acute attack:

  • Severe dizziness.
  • Vertigo (feeling that you are spinning or everything around you is spinning).
  • Noises in the affected ear, such as ringing or buzzing.
  • Hearing loss that increases with each attack. Possible accompanying symptoms:
  • Vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Jerky eye movements.
  • Loss of balance.

CAUSES--The exact cause is unknown. Suggested causes involve an inner ear response to a variety of injuries. There is an increase in the amount of fluid in the membranous labyrinth (the canals in the inner ear that control balance).


  • Stress.
  • Allergy.
  • Increased salt intake.
  • Noise.

HOW TO PREVENT--Avoid risk factors where possible.

What To Expect


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Diagnostic tests may include laboratory blood studies to rule out other disorders, various hearing tests, MRI (See Glossary) to rule out acoustic tumor.


  • Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Doctor's treatment.
  • Treatment usually consists of rest and medication to control the symptoms.
  • Surgical procedure on the affected labyrinth may be utilized in some patients with chronic Meniere's.


  • Permanent hearing loss.
  • Chronic noises in the ear.

PROBABLE OUTCOME--Attacks of Meniere's disease usually recur over a period of years. Mild attacks may last a half hour to several days. Severe attacks may last several weeks. Some symptoms can be controlled. The condition is frustrating but not life-threatening.

How To Treat


  • Avoid glaring light and don't read during attacks.
  • Severe attacks may be accompanied by anxiety attacks or migraines.

MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:

  • To treat an acute attack, intravenous atropine or diazepam, or scopolamine via a patch.
  • Antinausea drugs.
  • Tranquilizers to reduce dizziness.
  • Antihistamines, which lessen symptoms in some persons.
  • Diuretics to decrease fluid in the inner ear.


  • Rest quietly in bed until dizziness and nausea disappear.
  • Don't walk without assistance.
  • Avoid sudden changes in position.
  • Don't drive, climb ladders or work around dangerous machinery.


  • Decrease salt intake.
  • Limit total intake during an attack because of nausea.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have symptoms of Meniere's disease.
  • The following occurs during treatment: Decreased hearing in either ear. Persistent vomiting. Convulsions. Fainting. Fever of 101F (38.3C) or higher.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.
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