The ear is made up of three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The ability to hear is dependent on these three parts of the ear working together, and a problem with any part can cause hearing loss (heaing loss education centre, 2012). The inner ear consists of the cochlea, the auditory hearing nerve and the brain. These are the organs of hearing and balance and convert sound waves into nerve signals. These signals are sent to the brain using a nerve called the vestibulocochlear nerve. Nerve deafness occurs if there is damage to the inner ear and although it is possible to regain some hearing through the help of a hearing device, nerve deafness is often permanent. (deaf websites, 2013)
Damage to the inner ear can be caused by old age, exposure to loud noise, family history or Ménière’s disease.
Ménière’s disease is an incurable disorder with ‘vertigo, tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, noises in the ears) and progressive deafness’ (Nordqvist, 2009) . It affects one in a thousand people and can occur at any age, although it is more common between the ages of forty and sixty. The disease starts in one ear and around twenty five percent of these people will be affected in the other ear at a later date (knott, 2012) .
SYMPTOMS OF MENIERE’S DISEASE
Meniere’s disease usually occurs in attacks of many symptoms and can be unpredictable. The patient may be affected by attacks of these symptoms followed by long periods of time where they are not at all affected. This is referred to as remission. These attacks can last anywhere from twenty minutes to twenty four hours. The main symptoms include vertigo, tinnitus, a feeling of deep pressure inside the ear and hearing loss.
Vertigo is the most common and noticeable symptom. Vertigo attack usually last up to three hours and come with no warning. It is ‘a sense that you, or your environment, is moving or spinning, even though there is no movement’ (MacGill, 2013). Due to this dizziness it will be hard to stand or walk and may occur suddenly in drop attacks where the patient will fall to the ground unexpectedly. In severe attacks of vertigo it is possible to experience sweating diarrhoea and heart palpitations. (NHS, 2012)
Tinnitus ‘is a term that describes any sound a person can hear from inside their body rather than from an outside source’ (nhs, 2013). People usually hear sounds such as ringing, buzzing, humming or machine type noises. ‘Sometimes the noise pulsates at the same rate as your pulse’ (knott, 2012). The noises may vary in pitch and intensity and can come from either ear or both. The noise is more noticeable in a quiet place and people may find they are becoming more sensitive to normal everyday sounds.
Hearing loss can affect one or both ears. It may be difficult to hear particularly low sounds. Also due to the change in pressure of the endolymph fluid, patients may feel fullness or pressure deep in the ear. Eventually most people will experience long term hearing loss. Other...