Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is it Really Meniere's?

Meniere’s Syndrome - Frequently Misdiagnosed

Meniere’s syndrome is a disorder of the inner ear affecting balance and hearing.  The inner ear has fluid-filled chambers and canals. These chambers and canals, sending information from your inner ear to your brain, help interpret your body's position and maintain your balance.  Meniere's occurs when a part of this system, called the endolymphatic sac, becomes swollen. This sac helps filter and remove fluid in the semicircular canals.  An attack of Meniere’s usually appears without warning and the severity of each episode varies.  It generally affects only one ear, but may affect both in at least 20% of patients.

The symptoms of Meniere’s include recurrent vertigo (spinning sensation) spells usually lasting 20 minutes to several hours, hearing loss, low-pitched tinnitus and a sense of fullness or pressure in the involved ear.  Symptoms are generally worse with head movements.  The hearing loss is in the low frequency range.  In the early disease process the hearing may recover between attacks but eventually will lead to some degree of permanent hearing loss.  The tinnitus usually sounds like a low-pitched roar.

There is no known cure for Meniere’s disease.  Some lifestyle changes and medications can generally relieve symptoms.  Reducing salt (sodium) in the diet and the use of water-pills (diuretics) may relieve vertigo symptoms.  Other factors that may influence Meniere’s attacks and should be avoided if possible include alcohol use, fatigue, smoking and stress.  If symptoms are not adequately controlled by reduced salt intake and/or diuretic medication, there are several surgical procedures that may be effective in controlling symptoms.  The latest advances in surgical procedures include minimally invasive surgical techniques, including the injection of steroids or gentamicin (an antibiotic which is toxic to the inner ear) across the ear drum.

Unfortunately, Meniere’s is a condition that is over-diagnosed, meaning that many are diagnosed with it but they don’t really have it.  If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Meniere’s and do not have hearing loss and/or are under the age of 40, consider obtaining a second opinion, as most who are improperly diagnosed with Meniere’s are suffering from vestibular migraines.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hearing Aids Improve Lives

Dramatic lifestyle improvement found in patients who start using hearing aids

Many scientific studies in the past have confirmed the negative impacts associated with hearing loss: depression, anxiety and social isolation. However not many studies have shown the positive impacts created by a hearing solution.  A new study released in September 2011 conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), shows overwhelming data about how much of a difference hearing aids/devices can make.

The study surveyed more than 2,000 hearing loss patients who use devices to enhance the sense of sound. Of the sample group, 82 percent of patients would recommend hearing aids/devices to their friends and 70 percent reported improved ability to communicate. The data also shows more than four out of five people who use a device to hear better are satisfied with their solution.

“This survey clearly reveals how dramatically people’s lives can improve with the use of hearing aids/devices,” BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD said. "In this comprehensive study of more than 2,000 hearing device users we looked at 14 specific quality-of-life issues and found today’s hearing devices are a tremendous asset to people with even mild hearing loss who want to remain active and socially engaged throughout their lives.”

The study also concluded up to a third of patients saw improvements in their romance, sense of humor, mental, emotional and physical health. Further, roughly 40 percent noted improvements in their sense of safety, self-confidence, feelings about self, sense of independence and work relationships.

These results are the most significant of their kind because they show a clear potential solution to many of the draining feelings patients with hearing loss suffer. Many of the results are attributed to changing technology allowing hearing devices to be much smaller and present less of a societal stigma about wearing devices in day-to-day life. Newly introduced devices are so small they are nearly invisible. The new devices are also more intelligent and offer many improvements over older generation models. BHI’s Kochkin says, the first step to preserving your future enjoyment in life is to make an appointment with a hearing health professional and get your hearing checked.