Singer Huey Lewis was riding high in 1987 with his top hits “Hip to Be Square” and “Doing it All for My Baby” when suddenly the hearing in his right ear disappeared completely. Lewis felt like his ear was full, like in a swimming pool.
He couldn’t pop his ears or shake it out. He was finally diagnosed with Meniere’s disease based on his symptoms of fullness in the ear, vertigo, and tinnitus. Over time, Lewis adjusted to his hearing loss and continued touring and making music.
But in January 2018, the singer’s world collapsed. He was in Dallas with his band, the News, for a corporate gig when Lews heard a tremendous crashing noise before going on stage and couldn’t hear anything. Hoping it would get better on stage, he was in for a shock when he couldn’t find a pitch or hear himself. The evening was a horrible nightmare.
Lewis visited renowned hearing specialists, but they could not help with the roaring tinnitus. Neither did acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, or a new healthy diet. When nothing worked, he had to cancel all touring dates. Suicidally depressed, Lewis spent his days in bed contemplating his death.
With his friends and family rallying around him, Lewis pulled himself out of depression and started dealing with the reality of his situation. With the help of hearing aids, the singer can usually engage in conversations and work, though it’s unlikely he will ever tour again. That doesn’t mean he’s given up hope.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said, “The inner ear is one of the things medical science knows the least about. It’s cased in bone, and there’s no surgery. But I’m taking stem-cell stuff and trying everything. With my hearing always fluctuating, my body is doing something itself. What I have to do is stay healthy, exercise, and hope my body will slowly take care of itself.”
He said, “I have a great life. I’m a lucky guy. No matter what happens, I’m a lucky guy. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. But I am.”
What Exactly Is Ménière’s Disease?
With inner ear disorders, Ménière’s disease is a one-stop shopping ailment covering a range of issues. This disorder can cause severe dizziness, a buzzing or ringing in the ears known as tinnitus, fullness in the ear as though the ear is full of water, or hearing loss.
Fortunately, Ménière’s disease affects one ear only, leaving the sufferer with their normal range of hearing in the other. Unfortunately, the effects may come on without warning, bringing dizziness, tinnitus, or even muffled hearing. The attacks are unpredictable and can come and go frequently or spread out. It’s not unheard of that vertigo attacks are so bad they can cause a fall.
Ménière’s disease doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age. Those who deal with it can be of any age, but it most frequently affects adults from 40 to 60 years old. There are about 615,000 people who have been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, and 45,500 recent cases each year.
Why Would I Get Ménière’s disease?
There are several theories about what causes Meniere’s disease. However, there is no one answer. It may result from blood vessel constriction (similar to the ones involved in migraine headaches). Some researchers think the condition is a consequence of an autoimmune disease, infection, allergies or genetics.
How Will I Get Diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease?
Usually the condition is diagnosed by an ear, nose and throat doctor or ENT. There isn’t one definitive test that a doctor uses to make a diagnosis. The diagnosis will be based on:
- Your medical history
- At least two episodes of vertigo lasting a minimum of 20 minutes
- Fullness in the ear
- Temporary hearing loss
Your doctor may perform a hearing test and to rule out other conditions, might ask for an MRI or CT scan of the brain.
Treating Ménière’s Disease
With no cure currently available for Ménière’s disease, doctors still have some ways to treat the condition and make it more bearable. Here are some treatment options.
- Medication– Prescription drugs can help with dizziness and shorten an episode.
- Minimizing salt and encouraging diuretics– Reducing salt intake and adding diuretics to a diet will help the body keep less fluid easing pressure in the ear. Less pressure means less dizziness.
- Change in diet– Sufferers of Ménière’s disease have found that removing certain foods like chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine helps to lessen symptoms. Smoking is another trigger which should be eliminated.
- Cognitive therapies– Talking about what’s going on and how it makes one feel can help sufferers cope with this disease.
- Inner ear Injections– This procedure injects an antibiotic or corticosteroid into the middle ear to help with vertigo.
- Pressure pulse treatment– This involves a device which fits into the outer ear that sends air pressure pulses to the middle ear intermittently.
- Surgery– This may be seen as a last resort when other treatments aren’t relieving the symptoms. The surgeon will either involve decompressing the endolymphatic sac or the cutting of the vestibular nerve.
- Alternative Medicine– Some alternative therapies have been studied, but there is no evidence of the safety or effectiveness of acupuncture, herbal remedies, vitamins or tai chi. Always inform your doctor of any alternative therapy you’re using, since it can affect your conventional therapy.
What is My Prognosis?
About 60% of the people with Ménière’s get better on their own or can control the symptoms with hearing aids, medication and lifestyle changes. However, some people will need surgery for relief.
If you have any symptoms of Ménière’s disease you should consult your doctor or hearing professional immediately. You don’t have to live forever wondering if your life will ever be the same. There are many avenues of help. At Hearing Associates of Las Vegas, we are here to help you regain your hearing and your life!