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Menières Disease Affects More Than Celebrities
Menières Is Rare, But No Less Traumatic
Singer Jessie J revealed that she's currently in recovery from Menières Disease, and put simply, that it felt like someone had switched on a hair dryer inside her ear temporarily.
I've known of Menières for some time now, as I've had at least two people that I know who have had to deal with the condition and one on a chronic basis. Characterized by symptoms such as a sense of spinning, a roaring or buzzing in the ears, a drop in the ability to hear and nausea according to the NHS in the United Kingdom, Menières Disease is not exactly the most enjoyable condition you can hope to acquire. While I've never experienced the disease nor have a desire to, I do have a friend whose husband was diagnosed with it years ago and another who has had symptoms so severe in the past that she's been led from her job in a wheelchair, unable to stand.
I couldn't hope to understand what it would feel like to have Menières, especially chronically, but it sounds terribly unpleasant. It's a condition that affects just over 615,000 Americans yearly, according to the American Hearing Research Foundation. Given the population of the United States is well over 300 million, these numbers ultimately mean Menières really is a fairly rare disease, but it's one which looks at being controlled rather than being cured. There is no clear indication about what causes Menières, and there's no clear understanding as to what can spark an attack. The stress that sort of condition can cause is undeniable, and it's quite likely that stress can contribute to further instances of Menières if stress can be a contributing factor to Menières in the long run.
No one likes being sick, but when you might be plagued with a chronic illness that can strike at any time, that truly sucks. I don't use that word lightly, as I frequently find there are better words than that to describe when situations are truly uncomfortable at best and terrible at worst, but it's not a way to live your life. Certainly, all we can do in this life is hope for ongoing good health, but for those with Menières, particularly when it's bad enough that there's little you can do in order to "cure" the disease, I could only imagine that it's walking a tightrope, hoping it doesn't recur while still just living your best life possible.
Thankfully, Jessie J appears to be on the mend, and judging from the Entertainment Weekly story that focuses on her disclosure that she has Menières, she's even in fairly good spirits about it, though she stuck her finger in her ear to ease the symptom of roaring in her one ear canal - a sensation she likened to someone having flipped on a hair dryer. Reportedly, she was temporarily left deaf and unable to walk due to the Menières, but these are symptoms that have also been noted by others who have had the disorder.
What makes Menières truly unique, though, is the uncertainty surrounding it. As the American Hearing Research Foundation puts it, "The inability to specifically identify the pathology of what is prompting the symptoms of Meniere’s sets it apart as its own disorder. In other words, if all the symptoms associated with Meniere’s align AND they cannot be definitively tied to any underlying cause or disease, then a diagnosis of Meniere’s MAY be made. On the other hand, if the underlying condition or illness that is causing the symptoms can be identified, then it would not be a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease; it would be a diagnosis of something else—another disease definitively known to be causing the vertigo, for example."
The Foundation also notes that due to the unpredictability of the disease, those with Menières might struggle with depression and anxiety. A range of therapies is recommended to cope with any potential mental health challenges, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or mindfulness meditation. Diuretics might also be prescribed to help manage the fluid levels in the ears, which can trigger a Menières attack, and a doctor might also prescribe regular exercise and a healthy diet with limited salt intake.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Menières, and only a range of symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis only by process of elimination, it seems. However, as the disease continues to be better understood, hope might continue to bloom for those who struggle with debilitating Menières attacks.