Hope for those with Meniere’s disease

When I was first diagnosed with Meniere’s disease back in 1994, it seemed like little was known about it or what to do to alleviate the terrible symptoms associated with it.  If someone had a friend with Meniere’s disease, all that they really knew about that friend was that they would drop out of existence for several days at a time and reappear looking pasty white and sicker than ever only to disappear for a few more days.  Those with the ailment wouldn’t tell their bosses what they were going through because it was not understood and was interpreted as some lazy person trying to get out of work.  There was very little people could do about it–even the doctors.  If a low sodium diet didn’t help you, you would continue on your way, spinning, puking, and falling down, only to get back up and do it again.

I think we have come a long way since then and there is indeed more hope for those suffering from Meniere’s disease.  Here are the big things I see

New Products

In 1994, you never heard of lipoflavonoids or Meniette devices.  These are products that have come about since then. Also, the technology behind hearing aids has improved dramatically.  Years ago, hearing aids consisted of some big blob you stuck inside your ear.  The blob was tethered to a supporting apparatus which hung behind your ear.  Both parts were extremely eye-catching.

 

You can compensate for loss of hearing from Menere's disease with a hearing aid

Now hearing aids come in much smaller sizes
Meniere's disease patients can use much smaller hearing aids now

And in most cases you cannot see them. In this picture, you can barely see the tube going into the ear canal.

Meniere's disease patients can use much smaller hearing aids now

Even from behind the ear, it is dificult to spot these smaller hearing aids
Even from behind the ear, it is difficult to see the hearing aid worn by this Meniere's disease patient

New Funding and New Research

This year, TechGROWTH Ohio, announced a $337,000 venture capital investment in Sanuthera.  Sanuthera is a company which is developing a medical device for the treatment of tinnitus using customizable sound therapy. The Sanuthera device will treat both tinnitus and hearing loss.

Imperial Innovations Group plc, of the UK, has committed to invest $8 million in Autifony Therapeutics Ltd.  Autifony is a spin-out from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) studying the treatment of hearing disorders, including noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.

Irish start-up MuteButton has recived a $190,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland to accelerate large-scale clinical trials of its tinnitus treatment device . MuteButton has created a non-invasive device that treats the effects of tinnitus.

Na Zhu of Wayne State University received a $10,000 award from the American Tinnitus Association.  Zhu, a Ph.D. student, is developing a 3-D computer-aided diagnostic system to locate the locations of the tinnitus-related neural network activities in the brain’s auditory structure. The results of this study may lead to breakthrough treatments for tinnitus.

New Companies

Besides the new companies mentioned above, the creation of a new company, Tinnitus Music Lab, was announced this past June.  This new company sells a “notched music” system  and claims that when used correctly, it will cure tinnitus. Their research tested music that had been altered to eliminate the sound frequency that a tinnitus sufferer was lacking. This customized music increases the activity of neurons adjacent to the ones responsible for causing ringing in the ears. Therefore it restores balance in the auditory system, and eventually eliminates tinnitus. The really innovative part of this system is that the patient provide the music of their choice and can provide more and more music to be customized for their treatment.  I suspect their pocketbook is their only limiter.

Hope Overall

Below is a plot from Google Trends showing the number of Google searches performed for “menieres disease” (apostrophe excluded) over the past five years.

Internet interest in Meniere's disease is on a downward trend

As you can see, the number of searches has gone down every year since 2006.  I believe this has to do with the fact that Meniere’s disease is tormenting fewer and fewer people.  More people are actually finding the help they need and the need for doing one’s own medical research online is diminishing.

If you have not found help yet, I believe that the evidence supports that you will in the near future.  Good Luck.

 

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