If you have never heard of Meniere’s Disease, do not feel bad. I had never heard of it either until about 2 weeks ago. Let me start at the beginning:
Approximately 6 months ago, this random static/fizzing noise occurred in my right ear. It was the strangest thing and considering I never had ear issues as a child I did not know what to think of it. Finally, in late March I called the local ENT after an episode of high pitched whistling in my ear that woke me up from my sleep! I just felt like it was obviously progressing. First thing I learned: the sounds in my ear are called Tinnitus.
At my first ENT appointment, I was given a hearing test where I showed very mild hearing loss in the problem ear. There was nothing in my ear where you might shove a q-tip, so it was obviously coming from inside my inner ear. Great, I had been so calm and relaxed thinking it would be something as simple as built up ear wax. Gross, but unimportant and easy to fix..? The doctor then ordered an MRI and an MRA to rule out anything with my vessels, brain, veins, etc. because sometimes I had migraines and also the Tinnitus sounds would pulse. Wait.. my brain??! What?? I am okay with things possibly needing surgery anywhere on my body except my head and heart. The idea of either of those freak me out. Surely that’s normal though. So I had to wait around a week before I had the MRI and MRA done. Then I had to wait another week to receive the results. Seriously, do medical professionals prefer to make people sit around and wait that long on purpose? Thankfully the MRI and MRA did not show anything wrong with my vessels in my head or brain. Whew. No bleeding, weak veins, or aneurysm. Then what was the explanation? My local ENT informed me that he did not know from his end what could be causing it, but that there was a clinic in Memphis, TN that was founded approximately 90 years ago and the founder had “wrote the book on inner ear treatment.” He could refer me there if I didn’t think that the Tinnitus was going to get better on its own.
That is where Shea Ear Clinic came into my life.
My appointment was on the next Monday (another week to wait) at 8 a.m. in Memphis. From my house to Memphis is a 3 hour drive. We decided to drive up Sunday night and stay the night. Side note: my mother-in-law was going with me because everyone else needed to be at work or serving as child care for my daughter. There is a hotel that connects to the clinic via breezeway and it offered discounts to patients. Score! Once we were there we figured out we were really in the Georgetown side of Memphis, which in case you did not know, is a nicer side of town. It was also in the Saint Francis Hospital district so everything around us somehow looked brand new and booming. The hotel amazed us. The email reservation said two bedroom penthouse suite, but I had my doubts on the penthouse part. Until we arrived. We had a full service kitchen and I slept in an upstairs loft bedroom with a bathroom larger than the one at home. If I would’ve had the extra cash for a few more nights I might have wished for further testing. HA!
What I found out after about an hour of tests is that I have what is called Active Meniere’s Disease. Here is the basic gist of Meniere’s Disease: your inner ear makes and absorbs fluid at a steady rate. This is normal for your ear drum to work. For some reason my ear has stopped absorbing the fluid at the same rate and is therefore causing a build up of fluid in my inner ear. Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease include: fluctuation in hearing loss, dizziness, loss of balance/vertigo, and noises inside ear. I only have two of the symptoms (fluctuation in hearing loss and noises inside ear.) Because I only have partial symptoms, I have a form of Meniere’s called Active Meniere’s Disease Cochlar.
I saw Dr. John Emmett at the Shea Clinic who has been there for 40 years and he is amazing. I highly recommend him if you are having questionable ear issues. He was not easy to jump the gun and start poking in my ear. He prescribed a fluid pill to be taken daily as well as recommended 2 over the counter medicines: Gingko Biloba 2xs a day and Lipoflavanoid 3xs a day with meals. I have to take them every day for 3 months. At first, I was a little overwhelmed at the amount of pills. I struggle to remember a multivitamin. Ha! However, once I started taking them, I notice that it was days before having the static or pulsing in my ears again! Yay!! If you’ve never had static, pulsing, whirring, and whistling in your ears for over 5 months, then I cannot explain to you how CRAZY it can make a person. Crazy.
Oh, and he also suggested cardio. He said cardio gets the blood pulsing through your head and would force the excess fluid to absorb. Good to know. I have went to the gym, went hiking, etc. Now I notice every time I get my pulse pumping good and feel it in my head. Probably something that I’ve felt since running around as a child but never paid attention to until now when I know it is helping.
The diagnosis of Active Meniere’s Disease may not seem like a positive thing, but for me it is meaning a healthier life style because I am making a point to do more cardio each week. Also, I’ve cut out salts because they help the body retain fluid. So as inconvenient as the crazy sounds were, maybe it has benefited me by helping me finally make the moves for a healthier me.