You can stand up and remain stable when you walk, run or dance thanks to your inner ears. They have a complex and delicate system. Inside the ear there are sensitive bulbs, fluid-filled coils and minute hairs. Special membranes coat each hair. Each time you move your head, microscopic crystals on the membranes, tug on the hairs. This relays information through the inner ear and on to nerves which send the info to the brain. Because this system is so delicate, many things can go wrong. Viral infections, trauma and chronic conditions like Meniere’s disease can disrupt inner ear balance. When something does go wrong in the inner ear, it can lead to vertigo.
Vertigo doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. For some it can cause dizziness and nausea, for others, a sensation that the room is spinning. Vertigo is most often caused by an imbalance in the delicate organs of the inner ear. Problems with the sensory nerve pathways between the ear and the brain can also be to blame.
How Long Does Vertigo Last?
Attacks of vertigo can vary in length. For example, if your vertigo is due to Meniere’s disease, a bout may last from 20 minutes up to 24 hours. If it is due to inflammation of the inner ear, it will last for several days. Or longer, depending on how long it takes the inflammation to recede. Vertigo caused by a whiplash injury, or trauma may last for several years, or may even be permanent.
A New Device to Cure Vertigo
Dr. Jennifer Hsia and Dr. Jay Rubinstein have committed themselves to helping vertigo patients. At the University of Washington Medical Center are testing an innovative new solution. This treatment could be particularly helpful for individuals suffering from Meniere’s disease.
In the U.S. around 615,000 people suffer from Meniere’s disease. Each year 45,500 people find out they have it.
It can develop at any age, but it usually affects adults between 40 and 60 years old. The exact cause is not known. Symptoms of the disease include: dizziness, light headedness, tinnitus, hearing loss, and sensitivity to sound.
Many patients respond well to treatment with medication and lifestyle changes. When these fail, surgery is the last option. The problem is, current surgical treatment for Meniere’s disease is somewhat destructive in nature. In quelling the vertigo, patients also lose some residual hearing in the affected ear.
Dr. Rubinstein’s team have developed a cochlear implant that is the first of its kind. It aims to suppress the crippling vertigo associated with Meniere’s disease. This therapy is safer and works better than any current treatment for this disease. With this device an individual’s balance remains intact during an attack. Natural hearing and balance are not impaired.
How Would it Work?
The device is a surgical implant placed in a small orifice created in the temporal bone. The patient wears a small processor behind the affected ear. During an attack he or she activates it with one touch. Once activated, the processor sends a wireless signal to the implanted device. This in turn sends electrical impulses through three electrodes inserted into the ear’s canals. The impulses override the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. The patient’s hearing and balance functions work as normal.
The design is an off shoot of cochlear implants that are already FDA approved. Cochlear implants are for people who are hearing impaired. Starting with the cochlear implant design saved the team a lot of time. If they’d started from scratch it could have taken up to 10 years to create. The first patient to receive the implant is 56-year-old Gene Pugnetti from Yakina, Washington. Gene has suffered from unilateral Meniere’s disease for several years.
The implant could become the number 1 treatment for people suffering from Meniere’s disease. The implant will need human testing before it’s approved. It may also lead to similar treatments for other forms of vertigo and balance disorders. The device in manufactured by Australian based company Cochlear Ltd. of Lane Cove. In the meantime, natural and herbal treatments remain the best option for this disease.