Today I would like to talk to you about how Meniere’s disease, and other inner-ear-type symptoms, can be started, or aggravated, from a whiplash-type of injury. What happens is that the message from the ear travels to the brain via a nerve called the vestibulocochlear nerve. Vestibular = balance. Cochlear = hearing.
Most of the time with Meniere’s disease, patients will go to an ENT or another medical doctor, and they will check the inner ear and say, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with your ear.” But, somehow or another, the symptoms you have are unrelated, right? The balance, the hearing, the ringing in the ears…
If the message from the ear to the brain traveling via the vestibulocochlear nerve gets interfered with, then the normal message leaving the ear and traveling down the nerve can be changed before it gets to the brain. The brain senses something other than what the ear is trying to send it. There is one place that can happen and that is at the top of the neck or the brainstem area.
When people come to us with Meniere’s disease, we can almost always relate it back to some sort of trauma, like a fall, accident, or whiplash. Whiplash seems to be the most common, when you are still and your head keeps going, or when your head is still, and your body keeps going. This usually occurs in car wrecks, or other accidents when the head or body is abruptly jerked.
We have this big heavy head that weighs 10 to 12 pounds. It sits on top of a bone that weighs about three ounces. You can imagine how easy it is to have that big bowling ball bounce back across that tiny little bone. If that happens, that puts pressure at the brainstem. Pressure on the brainstem interferes with the messages from the body to the brain. In this case, the inner ear, which can create the vestibulocochlear symptoms – the balance problems, hearing problems, and ringing in the ears.
Therefore, if you have Meniere’s disease or symptoms related to Meniere’s disease, then there is a good chance that some type of accident is what initially created it. If you have had Meniere’s for a while, then there was an accident somewhere midterm that can actually make it worse.