Endolymphatic hydrops is a disorder of the vestibular system of the inner ear. It stems from abnormal fluctuations in the fluid called endolymph, which fills the hearing and balance structures of the inner ear. In Ménière’s disease there is too much endolymph fluid in the inner ear. This condition of excess fluid is referred to as endolymphatic hydrops. Endolymphatic hydrops are referred to as primary or secondary. Primary idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, known as Ménière’s disease, occurs for no known reason. Secondary endolymphatic hydrops occur in response to an event, such as head trauma, or an underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disorder.
Therapy for Ménière's disease is symptomatic in nature and does not address the underlying cause. Although the pathophysiology of Ménière's disease is not precisely known, it is thought to be related to a disturbance in the pressure/volume relationship of the fluid within the inner ear. The current therapy for attacks is for the individual to lay supine on a non-moveable surface such as a floor, limiting food and fluid intake until the symptoms subside, and visually focusing on a single immobile object. Conservative therapy includes a low sodium diet and diuretics to reduce the fluid accumulation, and pharmacologic therapy to reduce vestibular (balance) symptoms. Individuals who do not respond to these conservative measures may receive intratympanic gentamicin as a technique to chemically ablate vestibular function on the affected side. When symptoms continue and the unpredictability and fear of attacks persist, some individuals elect for more invasive therapy, including surgical procedures such as endolymphatic sac surgery, labyrinthectomy, or vestibular neurectomy. There is currently no therapy available to restore hearing loss that may occur.
As of July 2012, a visit to the National Library of Medicine’s search engine, PubMed, revealed 497 research articles concerning AIED disease published since 1964 with eleven of these published in the last year. In spite of this moderate effort by the medical research community, AIED disease remains a chronic, incurable disorder that causes progressive disability to both hearing and balance. At the American Hearing Research Foundation (AHRF) , we have funded basic research on similar disorders in the past , and are interested in funding research on AIED in the future. We are particularly interested in projects that might lead to methods of stopping progression of hearing loss and the disabling attacks of dizziness. Get more information about contributing to the AHRF’s efforts to detect and treat acoustic neuroma.