The Celebrities: Tampa Bay Forward Mattias Ritola Finds His Own Cure for Meniere’s Disease

For years, Meniere’s Disease patients have been told there’s no known treatment for their disorder, leaving us to research and discover our own ways to keep symptoms at bay. For Tampa Bay hockey player Mattias Ritola, treatment for one of his Meniere’s Disease symptoms went only as far as his local drugstore.

The hockey player found the remedy while preparing for four games that would put him on the road for a week. Airplanes have been such a challenge for the hockey player, he was considering quitting the team, since flying is required to get to games in a timely manner. The problem, experienced by many Meniere’s Disease sufferers, was the pressure created by takeoffs and landings.

The key to the earplugs Ritola found was a hole that ran through each earplug from top to bottom. These earplugs help ease the pressure in Ritola’s ears, preventing attacks that affect his game.

Ritola, who has experienced deafness in his left ear since childhood, had planned to get an injection in his ears prior to flying to help ease symptoms. The hockey player is glad the treatment will no longer be necessary, thanks to his earplugs.

Last year, Ritola’s battle with Meniere’s Disease was publicly disclosed, but he had been battling debilitating symptoms since 2010. The athlete told the Tampa Bay Times he usually knows early in the day whether or not he’ll have symptoms that day, which let him know whether or not he’d be able to play in that day’s game. Doctors had him on medications at that time to help reduce symptoms, but they could only minimize the disease, not completely treat it.

Ritola has also found relief in chiropractic treatment. The chiropractor said that by treating tense muscles, he was able to relieve the pressure on spinal nerves that impacted Ritola’s inner-ear balance. But head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan pointed out that Meniere’s Disease can often have periods of dormancy, leading patients to believe they have found a cure. With ice hockey requiring balance, the ramifications of a disease like Meniere’s can be career-crushing. 

This is a case of someone not willing to let Meniere’s disease take over his life.  Admittedly, I am not a professional athlete and my income does not depend on physical performance.  But early on, when I was struggling with the symptoms of Meniere’s, I resigned to letting Meniere’s keep me home-bound.  The second time I had to battle the symptoms, I decided to not let it control my life.  I went out with the family whenever we had something planned and even went on a backpacking trip that I had been planning for several months but was not equipped with a fully functional equilibrium.

Ritola is another case of someone living a fully productive life by managing the symptoms of Meniere’s disease.

Please remember to fill out our Meniere’s disease survey if you have not already done so.  Next month, I will roll out the results of the survey.

The Celebrities: Saxophonist Chris Potter Finds Strength in Battling Meniere’s Disease

Renowned musician Chris Potter makes beautiful music, listened to all over the world. But the saxophonist has been left partially unable to hear his own music.

Diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease several years ago.  He has battled the symptoms since then. His bouts of vertigo inspired his 1998 CD Vertigo, which was such a huge success, The New York Times named it one of the top ten jazz CDs of that year. Critics have said the CD is one of his most expressive works, perhaps because it was inspired by something so personal.

As with many Meniere’s Disease patients, Potter didn’t know what was wrong at first. His symptoms began with sudden bouts of dizziness, accompanied by occasional episodes of vertigo. 

After undergoing several surgeries, Potter eventually experienced hearing loss that led to complete deafness in one ear. While some people might let that get them down, Potter found renewed strength and determination, going on to produce some of the best music of his career.

The South Carolina native emerged on the scene at the age of 13, gaining a local following at professional jazz events. He attended school in New York, where he began performing with legend Red Rodney. After working with Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band, he moved on to a solo career, where he began receiving critical acclaim and public attention.

In recent years, Potter has been symptom-free, something he attributes to keeping a positive frame of mind. Being positive was a source of strength for the musician and has helped him get to where he is today. Not only is the artist a solo success, he often collaborates with jazz legends like Herbie Hancock and Dave Holland. He even had the opportunity to play with Steely Dan at Madison Square Garden and in 2000, was featured on the band’s Grammy Award-winning CD, Two Against Nature.

Please remember to fill out our Meniere’s disease survey if you have not already done so.  Next month, I will roll out the results of the survey.

The Celebrities: Switched at Birth’s Katie LeClerc Brings New Attention to Meniere’s Disease

ABC Family’s Switched at Birth is one of the network’s most successful series, with the network ordering thirty-two total episodes for its first season. Its teen stars were nominated for teen choice awards and millions of people tune in each week.

Twenty-five-year-old Katie LeClerc is one of the show’s breakout stars. The actress, who plays a deaf character on the show, is not only a talented actress but a role model for the network’s many young viewers. LeClerc has a hearing impairment of her own, caused by Meniere’s Disease. The actress has worn hearing aids from a young age but has found that even with the devices, some days her hearing is worse than others.

Hearing loss is a symptom of Meniere’s Disease, which has no definite cause and no known cure. In addition to permanent hearing loss, Meniere’s Disease sufferers usually experience a persistent ringing in the ear known as tinnitus. LeClerc’s sister also suffers from the malady with symptoms more pronounced than LeClerc’s.

On Switched at Birth, LeClerc plays a youth who discovers she’s been raised by parents not her own. Her own parents are raising another young girl, played by Vanessa Marano. The girls discover they were switched at birth before their parents discover it and are left to deal with the consequences.
LeClerc began her acting career in a series of commercials for products like Pepsi, and GE. By 2006, she was regularly landing roles on TV, including a recurring role on a telenovela called Fashion House, which starred Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild. She was in the Rascal Flatts music video What Hurts the Most and the TV series Veronica Mars and Saints & Sinners.

For the role on Switched at Birth, producers were hoping to find a hearing impaired actress who was beautiful and talented. They found it in LeClerc. In addition to LeClerc, the show features hearing impaired actress Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and Sean Berdy, who plays LeClerc’s best friend on the show. Berdy is deaf as well.

Katie LeClerc has recently learned that Meniere’s Disease isn’t as rare as she once thought. Celebrities like Heather Locklear, who is said to have the disease, as well as the makeup artist on the Switched at Birth set. The actress is also thrilled to be able to work with Marlee Matlin, an actress she has idolized since childhood. While she finds inspiration in the actors that have lit up screens before her, Katie LeClerc is inspiring a new generation of TV viewers, many of whom are learning of the disease for the first time.

Please remember to fill out our Meniere’s disease survey if you have not already done so.  Next month, I will roll out the results of the survey.