Our auditory system consists of several delicate and intricate pieces that all work together to help you hear, maintain your balance and do many, many more daily functions. To understand how a problem with your auditory system can impact other aspects of your health, it’s important to look at how the organs of the ear work together.

Understanding how we hear

Three parts comprise the ear: the outer, middle and inner ear. All three parts play an important part in hearing. Sound waves travel through your outer ear into your middle ear. When the sound waves reach the middle ear, they cause your eardrum to vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted through tiny bones called ossicles, located in your middle ear. The vibrations travel through the ossicles into the inner ear. A snail-shaped organ, the inner ear is responsible for creating and sending the nerve impulses from the ear to the brain. Your brain recognizes these impulses as sounds. The inner ear is also responsible for controlling balance.

Can your ears impact balance?

There are a number of conditions that could affect your hearing or balance. One of those conditions is called Meniere’s disease. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the ear that can cause severe dizziness, tinnitus, intermittent hearing loss and intense ear pressure or pain.

Symptoms of Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease usually affects just one ear. A hallmark of the disorder is sudden dizzy spells, commonly following tinnitus or muffled hearing. These spells or attacks can last minutes to hours to days. Some people may suffer the attacks many times over a period of days while others may only experience them once in a while.

While it isn’t as common as tinnitus, which affects 45 million Americans a year, the National Institutes of Health reports that roughly 50,000 to 100,000 people develop Meniere’s disease a year.

How to treat Meniere’s disease

Scientists aren’t entirely certain of the cause of Meniere’s disease, however one postulation believes the fluid levels mixing inside the ear canals could be the culprit. A proper diagnosis from a hearing healthcare professional, such as an audiologist or otolaryngologist would be beneficial if you have the symptoms of Meniere’s disease.

As there is no certain cause of Meniere’s disease, a cure has yet to be discovered as well. Treatment options include medicines to control dizziness. Water pills and limiting salt in the diet to maintain potassium levels is suggested as well. Severe cases could be surgical.