Ménière’s Disease

A. Definition
Ménière’s disease, also called endolymphatic hydrops, is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of rotary vertigo, along with fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus, and a feeling of pressure within the ear. It was named after the French physician, Prosper Ménière, who, in 1861, was the first to report that vertigo is caused by an inner ear disorder. Ménière’s disease affects people differently, ranging in intensity from being a mild annoyance to a life-long, debilitating condition.

B. General information
People in their 40’s and 50’s are more prone to have Ménière’s disease than people of other ages; however, Ménière’s can occur at any age, even childhood. If you suffer from Ménière’s disease, you also may have high levels of stress and anxiety. This is likely related to the unpredictability of the disease’s course and severity. Vestibular injuries can directly increase anxiety. Although Ménière’s disease is considered a chronic condition, various treatments can help relieve symptoms and minimize the disease’s long-term impact on your life.

Ménière’s disease usually starts in one ear, but often involves both ears over time. The course of tinnitus is unpredictable. Hearing loss, in the beginning, is fluctuating rather than permanent, meaning that it comes and goes, alternating between ears, then becomes permanent with no return to normal function. Hearing aids and cochlear implants can be used to help remedy the damage. Ménière’s disease has a variable prognosis. It also is known to “burn out” when vestibular function has been destroyed to a point where vertigo attacks cease.

Ménière’s disease can be debilitating and make it impossible for you to sustain full time work for at least a year. The Social Security Administration recognizes that some people qualify for disability benefits because frequent incapacitating attacks of vertigo and nausea, along with permanent hearing loss, make full time work impossible. The majority of sufferers, however, will recover with or without medical treatment.

C. Social Security Medical Listing 2.07 – Disturbance of Labyrinthine-Vestibular Function
Remissions of Ménière’s disease have an unpredictable onset and irregular duration, but episodes of remission may be long-lasting; therefore, the severity of your impairment is best determined after prolonged observation and serial examinations. The diagnosis of your Ménière’s disease or vestibular disorder requires a comprehensive neuro-otolaryngologic examination with a detailed description of the vertiginous episodes, including notation of frequency, severity, and duration of the attacks. Pure tone and speech audiometry with the appropriate special examinations, such as Bekesy audiometry, also are necessary. Vestibular function is accessed by positional and caloric testing, preferably by electronystagmography. When polytomograms, contrast radiography, or other special tests have been performed, copies of the test reports should be obtained, as well as medically acceptable imaging reports of your skull and temporal bone.

Your representative can help you determine whether your Ménière’s disease is severe enough for you to qualify for the Social Security Administration disability benefits.