What is Ménière's disease?

woman holding headMénière's disease is one of many vestibular balance disorders that affects the inner ear—the part of your ear responsible for hearing and balance. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, it’s estimated that over 600,000 people in America have Ménière's disease. While people who suffer from this disorder can experience a variety of symptoms, the most common are vertigo—where the patient feels that he’s spinning—imbalance, nausea, and vomiting. In general, Ménière's disease only affects one ear.

When a patient suffers an attack of Ménière's disease, he usually first feels a fullness in one ear, followed by any of the four major symptoms. An episode generally lasts from two to four hours, and the patient may want to sleep for several hours following a severe attack.

Obtaining Social Security (SS) disability benefits for Ménière's disease can be challenging if you don’t have the appropriate symptoms listed in the SS Blue Book of Impairments. To prove that your symptoms have disabled you, it’s helpful to have a disability attorney to help get your claim approved for this condition.

Diagnosing Ménière's Disease

After discussing your symptoms with your doctor, he'll likely order tests to evaluate your hearing, your balance, and to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. These tests can include:

  • Balance tests. Patients who suffer from Ménière's disease have a “decreased balance response” in one of their ears, so balance tests are performed to test how the inner ear is functioning. The test most often to determine Ménière's Disease is called electronystagmography (ENG). For this test, a doctor will place electrodes around your eyes, so he can notice any eye movement. The inner ear’s balance response prompts eye movements. Additionally, the doctor pushes both hot and cold water into the ear, causing the balance function to work. The test tracks involuntary eye movements and abnormalities, which can reveal problems with your inner ear.

    Other balance tests include:
    • Rotary chair testing. This may also be called “rotational chair” testing and is used less often. The rotary chair test shows your doctor whether your balance problems are originating in your ear or your brain. Because the ENG test results can sometimes be misleading if you have damage to your ear or there's wax buildup blocking your ear canal, this test is used in addition to ENG. During this test, your eye movements are recorded while the chair is being moved.
    • Vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP) testing. This tests the vestibule of the inner ear and measures its sensitivity to sound.
    • Posturography testing. This test helps your doctor establish which part of your balance system isn’t functioning the way it should. Your doctor fits you with a safety harness as you stand on a platform in your bare feet to perform a variety of balance challenges.
       
  • Hearing Tests. Also known as an “audiometry exam,” hearing tests are used to help establish if you have a loss of hearing. Your doctor has you wear headphones and listen to noises at differing volumes and pitches. You tell him when you’re able and unable to hear a tone, and a technician evaluates your level of hearing and if you’re suffering from hearing loss. Additionally, your doctor tests if you can hear the difference in sounds that are nearly alike. Again, while wearing headphones, you’ll tell the doctor what you hear. From this test, he'll determine if you have a hearing problem in one or both of your ears.

    Because a loss of hearing can be caused by an inner ear problem or an issue with the ear nerve, an electrocochleography (ECOG) can also be done to measure the “electrical activity” in the inner ear.
     
  • Other tests. In order to rule out other possible problems and conditions, your doctor may order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests can help rule out other problems such as a brain tumor tumor or multiple sclerosis. 

The results of your tests are important pieces of evidence needed by the Social Security Administration to approve your disability claim.

Get Help With Your Claim

If you suffer from Ménière's disease and have a disability due to this condition, it’s possible to obtain SS disability benefits. Contact Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your eligibility for compensation.