Meniere’s Disease and Social Security Disability

Hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and suffering episodes of vertigo, can lead to a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease.

What is the cause of Meniere’s?

The specific cause of Meniere’s is not fully understood.  It appears that an imbalance of the fluid in the inner ear may cause Meniere’s.  But “no single cause has been identified.”

How is Meniere’s disease diagnosed?

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo — a sensation of a spinning motion — along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. In many cases, Meniere’s disease affects only one ear.

A doctor will take a complete medical history and then order a hearing assessment, a balance assessment, and possibly other tests to rule out other conditions.

The “hearing test assesses how well [a person] detects sounds at different pitches and volumes and how well [the individual] distinguishes between similar-sounding words.”  This test looks at a person’s quality of hearing and may also tell the doctor whether the source of the hearing problems is in the inner ear or the auditory nerve.

Meniere’s disease throws off a person’s balance.  While balance commonly returns to normal between episodes of vertigo, there may be continuing balance difficulties.  To check a person’s balance, a doctor may order a videonystagmography (VNG) that evaluates balance by watching eye movement.  To perform this test, “warm and cool water or warm and cool air are introduced into the ear canal.  Measurements of involuntary eye movements in response to this stimulation are performed using a special pair of video goggles.  Abnormalities of this test may indicate an inner ear problem.”

Another balance test is the rotary-chair test where the chair movement is controlled by a computer and eye movements are measured again.  There is vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMP) testing where “sensors detect variations in neck or eye contractions” that measure inner ear function.  Another balance test is posturography where an individual wears a safety harness and “stands in bare feet on a platform and keeps their balance under various conditions.”

To rule out other conditions, a doctor may order an MRI or a CT to rule out a brain tumor.  There is also auditory brainstem response audiometry that looks for tumors on the auditory nerve.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability

Meniere’s disease is considered a disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function.  These disturbances are “characterized by a history of frequent attacks of balance disturbance, tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss.”  While there are ranges of balance and hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease, the SSA requires a showing of balance problems and hearing loss through vestibular tests and audiometry.  To assess vertigo, the “disturbances of balance are characterized by a hallucination of motion or a loss of position sense and a sensation of dizziness which may be constant or may occur in paroxysmal attacks.  Nausea, vomiting, ataxia, and incapacitation are frequently observed, particularly during the acute attack.  It is important to differentiate the report of rotary vertigo from that of “dizziness” which is described as light-headedness, unsteadiness, confusion, or syncope.”

The SSA Bluebook notes that “Meniere’s disease is characterized by paroxysmal attacks of vertigo, tinnitus, and fluctuating hearing loss.  Remissions are unpredictable and irregular, but may be long-lasting; hence, the severity of impairment is best determined after prolonged observation and serial reexaminations.”

If you have been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and it has progressed to where you cannot work, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to help you apply for Social Security Disability.

The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA., Attorneys & Counselors at Law will provide a free, no obligation consultation at our South Florida offices located in Dade, Broward and Monroe County. If you are unable to travel, we can see you at your home, hospital, or other location which is convenient for you. Contact us at  (305) 653-5555 to schedule your free consultation today.