Preventing Deafness and Restoring Hearing in Meniere’s disease
By Mike Spencer
Founder of Menieres-Help.Com
Researcher and Author of Managing Meniere’s Disease – How to Live Symptom Free and The Need for Balance -Dealing with the Causes of Meniere’s
Audiologists are now accepting that prevention is possible through the correct diet but restoring hearing is a whole different matter. I was told by ENT doctors and audiologists that restoration of my hearing was impossible. I was told with each vertigo attack the nerve endings inside the ear were being destroyed and I would have to accept the fact I would be deaf. How deaf would depend on the level of hearing at the “burn out stage” of Meniere’s disease.
There is only a ‘burn out’ stage if the symptoms of Meniere’s are allowed to continue long term and even then there is no guarantee it will actually burn itself out. In fact I received an email days ago from a lady who had been suffering for 5 decades! Most of what I was told in the early days of my Meniere’s has been contradicted since or been simply proven to be wrong.
Sufferers who contact Meniere’s Help almost always tell of similar gloom and doom prophesies from their treating medical professionals.
However, before we go into the science and evidence in medical studies that contradict these passively accepted ‘beliefs’, I have to point out that many success stories tell of sufferers regaining their hearing and completely freeing themselves of Meniere’s, period.
In my own case, the return of my hearing was a long time coming, full of contradictions and paradoxes. For the first 5 years of my Meniere’s ‘experience’ my hearing had fluctuated greatly from terrible to almost perfect as pressure, dizziness and tinnitus increased and subsided and full blown vertigo attacks came and went. I then made the mistake of having an endolymphatic shunt implant. It was not only ultimately unsuccessful (and expensive at around $10,000) but following the surgery my hearing no longer fluctuated but remained at a very low level.
I like many other people found relief from the vertigo and dizziness through dietary changes and the use of a quality supplement regimen. I was free of all the symptoms of Meniere’s except a very slight tinnitus. My hearing was better but nowhere near the levels on good days prior to the shunt implant. This was the case for ten years.
Other people using the same supplement regimen regularly contacted me with their success stories (some of which you can read on this blog) and many would tell stories of how their hearing had returned. I was excited for them but rather envious too. I cursed the day I had decided to have that shunt implant. Knowing that so many others were regaining their hearing on the same regimen I was using and knowing how my hearing worsened following the implant, I was certain I was doomed to a life of deafness in my left ear.
The stories of others regaining their hearing didn’t really surprise me. Shortly after my audiologist in London had told me my hearing would never return, I went into remission naturally and suffered no symptoms at all for about 9 months. My hearing returned completely at that time.
Several years later (after the surgery) I suffered a head injury playing football. I broke my eye socket and cheek bone on the side of the affected ear. Within minutes of the injury, blood and clear fluid poured down through my sinus and out of my nose. Very quickly I noticed my sinus and my ear felt clearer than I could ever remember and suddenly I noticed I could hear very clearly through my affected ear. It was strange moment; in agony from the broken bones but elated because I could hear again.
The hearing slid back down again over the following weeks but this experience threw up many questions, the answers to which both challenged and contradicted conventional ‘beliefs’ among the mainstream medical community regarding Meniere’s. Answers that eventually resulted in the understanding as to why there is such widespread passive acceptance by ENT doctors and Meniere’s ‘specialists’ that there was no known cause of Meniere’s and no known cure.
It is important to understand that there is no known ‘definitive’ cause and therefore no known ‘definitive’ cure. The reasons for this are simple. There are several root causes and therefore several routes to finding your individual cure. Although the resulting symptoms are the mostly the same, the roots of these symptoms can be very different in each individual case. So the answers for each case will be different. (Click here to learn how to find and deal with your own root cause)
So then, regarding the prevention and yes, the restoration of your hearing – it can be done, has been done and is being done all the time; just as sufferers can free themselves of Meniere’s completely, have done and are doing so all the time.
In my case, after living free of all other symptoms for 10 years through dietary means, it wasn’t until I was worked on by an excellent chiropractor in Japan in 2012 that my hearing returned to normal and I could say with full confidence that I no longer had ‘Meniere’s Disease”. I no longer need that expensive supplementation, though I do eat healthily and help run an organic fruit farm.
If your treating doctor has told you, ‘there is nothing more to be done, take the drugs and lean to live with it‘ then it is down to you to get proactive, informed, and take the appropriate action needed in your individual case. This could be something you do yourself or by seeking out the appropriate health professional depending on your own individual case. Often, the roots of your symptoms can be where you least expect it and not in the realms of consideration or knowledge of ENT doctors.
After years of supporting sufferers and preaching the benefits of diet, my focus for the past 8 years of research and writing has been almost totally on root causes and how to correct them.
I have over 20 years association with this condition. 7 years of suffering, 13 years of support work and now nearly 8 years of research and writing about solutions for Meniere’s sufferers. I formally studied clinical nutrition for 4 years prior to starting serious research, corresponded with and spoke to health professionals and thousands of other sufferers who were able to live symptom free through lifestyle changes and dietary changes, including supplementation. So I know the importance and significance of what we eat and drink.
The studies and information cited below regarding prevention of hearing loss, restoration of hearing and ear health in general underscore the importance of what you eat.
When asking yourself if it is indeed even possible to restore hearing, apart from the success stories that prove it is, consider the study of epigenetics. Long before the focus became on modification, epigenetics showed us that DNA can repair itself naturally.
Just as in the study of cellular biology shows us that cells regenerate either healthily or unhealthily depending on their environment. Both of these factors are influenced by what we eat. In fact they rely on it. The DNA and cells in your ear are no different in this respect. You can restore your hearing, provided no destructive surgery has taken place.
In 2014 PubMed.gov published the findings of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2002 in the USA regarding ear health.
In the paper titled: ‘Healthy Diets, Healthy Hearing’ It was established that “a significant relationship between dietary nutrient intake and susceptibility to acquired hearing loss is emerging.”
The results of the survey showed, “we found a significant negative relationship between dietary quality and thresholds at higher frequencies, where higher dietary quality was associated with lower hearing thresholds.”
It concluded that, “The current findings support an association between healthier eating and lower high frequency thresholds in adults.”
Nutritional imbalances are increasingly thought to be a causative factor in hearing loss, tinnitus and in many cases Meniere’s in general. Nutrients found to be especially beneficial for protecting and improving hearing are astaxanthin, vitamin A, folate, zinc and magnesium.
The nutrients listed above support hearing health by, among other things:
- Protecting against oxidative stress in the cochlea
- Preventing free radical damage
- Improving blood flow, thereby reducing cochlear damage related to a compromised vascular system
- Improving homocysteine metabolism
Vitamin A and E
In 1984 a European study reported a 5 to 15 decibel improvement in patients with age-related hearing loss when given vitamins A and E. Other research concluded that vitamin A deficiency results in a decline in the number of sensory cells in the nose, tongue and inner ear.
In 2009, Japanese researchers found that adults with the highest blood serum levels of vitamin A and carotenoids have the lowest risk for hearing loss.
In 2014, researchers determined that vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy, especially during the early stages of fetal development ‘may predispose offspring to inner ear malformations and sensorial hearing loss.
Research has shown zinc may be useful for idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). Although this is not considered Meniere’s of course, the interesting thing is, SSNHL is thought to be viral in origin, and over half of SSNHL sufferers regain their hearing.
Zinc has anti-viral properties, and studies have shown it can prevent common cold viruses from replicating or attaching to your nasal membranes. Zinc also has immune-boosting properties, allowing your body to mount a stronger first response at the onset of a viral infection.
A study published in Laryngoscope and on PubMed in 2011 had this to say about zinc:
“There was a significant correlation between serum zinc level changes and post treatment hearing thresholds by correlation analysis, as well as between changes of serum zinc levels and percentage of recovery in the zinc group.
Zinc supplementation may enhance the hearing recovery of SSNHL patients. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce the oxidative stress of the cochlea in SSNHL, implying a new direction in the treatment of this disease.”
This is significant for its relevance to the ear in general but also in that the root cause of Meniere’s in some people may be viral related.
Note: Excess zinc can cause problems, so it should be obtained through a well balanced diet and/or the use of quality, balanced supplementation in the form of multi vitamin/minerals. Indiscriminately taking zinc supplements can lead to nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, increase the chances of prostrate cancer in men and interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals, which may lead to anemia.
Some good dietary sources of zinc are: pumpkin seeds, ground sesame seeds, cashews, almonds, crimini mushrooms, spinach, sea vegetables and cheddar cheese.
Magnesium can be a very significant mineral for ear health, Meniere’s and tinnitus. Click here to read about the importance of Magnesium for Meniere’s.
Medical News Today reported in 2014 that a study showed:
“48 percent of SSNHL patients achieved recovery after receiving intravenous magnesium in combination with carbogen inhalation (a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen gas). Another 27 percent experienced significant improvement.”
It has to be noted in this study it was stated that the effectiveness of the treatment was reduced in patients who had vertigo. The article linked to above explains why magnesium can be so important for Meniere’s none the less.
Folate (Vitamin B9) has been shown to lower tinnitus. Folate also lowers your homocysteine, and having a high blood level of homocysteine has been linked to ‘age-related’ hearing loss.
Dr Mercola explains,
“There is good reason to consider getting your folate from food rather than folic acid supplements. In order for folic acid to be of use to your body, it must first be activated into its biologically active form — L-5-MTHF. This is the form that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
It’s been estimated that nearly half of all adults have difficulty converting folic acid into the bioactive form because of a genetic reduction in enzyme activity. For this reason, if you take a B-vitamin supplement, make sure it contains natural folate rather than synthetic folic acid.”
Good sources of folate are: Asparagus, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, beans and lentils.
Christopher Spankovich, who has been studying the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2002 mentioned above states that,
“Some work that I did (Spankovich et al., 2011) demonstrated a relationship between vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and lycopene with better auditory function and higher cholesterol and fat with poorer auditory function. Gopinath et al. (2011b) found a significant relationship between increased odds of hearing loss with higher dietary cholesterol intake. There also is research data showing increased odds of hearing loss with higher carbohydrate and sugar intake (Gopinath et al., 2010).”
Spankovich was also quoted in 2013 in the International Journal of Audiology as stating:
“a significant relationship between dietary nutrient intake and susceptibility to acquired hearing loss is emerging.”
An Australian study published in the International Journal of Nutrition in 2010 showed that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates detrimentally impacts hearing.
Research reported in the December 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery indicates that deficiencies in folic acid and B12 impinge on hearing by harming the nervous and vascular systems and perhaps even damaging the coating over the cochlear nerve.
Studies have shown that resveratrol found in grapes and wine dramatically lowered the amount of COX-2 in the inner ears of rats after exposure to 24 hours of noise. COX-2 is a protein that causes inflammation and may contribute to hearing loss. This may be one reason why Meniere’s sufferers have such positive results with grape seed extract.
The American Journal of Otolaryngolgy published a study in 1993 suggesting Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
The results of the study showed, Patients with tinnitus and NIHL exhibited vitamin B12 deficiency in 47% of cases. This was significantly more compared with NIHL and normal subjects who exhibited vitamin B12 deficiency in 27% and 19%, respectively.
The author concluded that:
“These observations suggest a relationship between vitamin B12 deficiency and dysfunction of the auditory pathway. “
In 2008, researchers at the University of Michigan reported that a study showed the use of Vitamins A,C and E improved hearing loss by 80%.
A 2010 paper from the University of Western Ontario, ‘The effects of magnesium supplementation on sensorineural hearing damage’ concluded that magnesium supplementation is generally associated with a reduction in hearing damage caused by noise exposure and/or idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss in adults.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 by doctor Yoon-Hyeong Choi and others, they reported that
“there was a lower degree of hearing loss in the American population among those who took Magnesium and Antioxidant Vitamins. Though Dr Choi studied hearing loss, his results also apply to tinnitus.”
A 1993 study reported in ‘Science’ found that vitamin A can stimulate the regeneration of mammalian auditory hair cells.
Medical News Today reported in 2014 that the protein Neurotrophin-3 (NT3) was used to restore hearing in mice.
It was explained:
“This allows researchers to activate genes in particular cells by administering a drug that prompts the cells to ‘read’ additional copies of a gene that have been inserted into them. For this study, the team used the technique to activate additional NT3 genes that had been introduced to the supporting cells of the inner ear in mice that had been partially deafened by loud noise.
The drug tamoxifen was introduced to the supporting cells in the inner ear, which prompted them to produce extra NT3 protein … The researchers found the mice that had experienced boosted NT3 production regained their hearing over a 2-week period, compared with mice that had not had additional NT3 production …
[T]hey now plan to … identify drugs that produce the same effect as the protein, offering the potential to restore hearing loss in humans. The researchers note that the gene therapy technique used in this study has the potential to work in humans, but that a drug-based method would be ‘simpler’ and a drug could be repeatedly administered for as long as it takes for hearing to be restored.”
However, a Chinese study cited in 2012 in The African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that the nutrient astaxanthin raises NT3 expression meaning the need for drugs is not necessary.
The two main sources of natural astaxanthin are the microalgae that produce it, and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon, shellfish and krill.
One study shows that supplementing with 1,200 mg of NAC per day for two weeks significantly decreased noise-related hearing loss of the subjects.
Another study found that taking a NAC supplement did not completely prevent hearing loss, but it did significantly reduce it after prolonged exposure to noise.
Since NAC does not naturally occur in foods, it would appear that you have to take this as a supplement if you want to help your hearing. But if you eat poultry or yogurt, you can get a good amount of cysteine your body can use to make NAC.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2010 that suggested that increased intake of Omega-3 fatty acids could reduce age related hearing loss.
What do all these studies have in common?
Virtually all the studies above have three things in common:
- The growing understanding of the importance of nutrition in ear health
- How these nutrients promote blood flow
- How antioxidants tackle the vastly under reported problem of free radicals in inflammation and therefore in disease states.
The fact that so many people regained their hearing while using the supplement regimen I used is therefore not so surprising after all. The regimen is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that promote blood flow and cardiovascular health.
Such a regimen may compensate somewhat for poor lifestyle choices and poor diets but cannot replace a healthy balanced (preferably organic whole food) diet. The clue is in the word ‘supplementation‘. This form of nutrition is supposed to be used to ‘supplement‘ your diet, not to replace it but rather support it and work in synergy with real whole foods.
The ‘placebo’ effect, at least in my own case and many others is highly unlikely, in fact I believe impossible. Like many, back in 2002 when I first tried supplementation, I did so purely out of desperation, believing I had exhausted all other avenues for relief. I knew nothing of what I know now and frankly didn’t trust or believe in the idea at all. I was so desperate that I would have drunk kitchen bleach if there was a chance it might help.
Ultimately, as I wrote above, it wasn’t until I corrected the root cause of Meniere’s in my case that I regained my hearing. That was not the case for many others though, who regained their hearing purely through the application of nutrition.
Using high end, quality supplements is not cheap and something that usually needs to continue for sufferers to stay symptom free, at least at some level. There are those who would say that is a wise thing because it will help keep you generally healthy, disease free, and full of energy.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the money to even try these supplements in the first place, let alone continue with them long term. It would be very frustrating for me in years gone by when I would get mails from people such as single mothers on welfare suffering so badly with no hope at all of affording such supplements.
When I knew the regimen was helping so many others and yet far more people were either unable to afford them or just didn’t believe in them, something had to done to help these people. This was one of the many reasons 8 years ago I decided to research full time and make it my life’s work to identify root causes and ways to deal with these causes. Helping sufferers free themselves of Meniere’s disease, regain their hearing and regain their life should not be so selective. Everyone deserves the chance and should lreceive all the help they can get. I believe and the evidence from readers suggests it is so, that although my research never ends, I achieved my goal somewhat when I published my second book, The Need for Balance – Dealing with the Causes of Meniere’s .
You can read success stories elsewhere on this blog but below are a selection of email extracts from people who have overcome Meniere’s and specifically regained their hearing. You can do the same, and don’t let anyone tell you “there is nothing more to be done, learn to live with Meniere’s.” I say, learn to live without it.
“After 3 days my attacks went from one per day to none, after 2 weeks my hearing was back and after 4 weeks my tinnitus could only be heard barely at night.”
“Approximately 8 months I have had no symptoms – have hearing test results that show my hearing loss has improved “
“For the first time in years I can be in loud places, train hard, play Candy Crush and so forth, two tinnitus tones are gone and my hearing improved.”
“Thanks Mike. I’ve been symptom free for 3 years now. So far so good“
“I bought your 1st book and learned a lot from it. Symptom free for about a year and a half.“
“The “fog” I was living with has subsided and my tinnitus has decreased as well. Earlier this year my hearing was so bad that I was unable to hear the fan that is placed right next to my head at night. For years I have not been able to speak on the phone with my right ear and now I am able to.”
“My husband is now living symptom free.“
“My mother has been very lucky, her Menieres has been cured.“
“Thank you Mike. All of my symptoms have gone away.“
“The pressure did indeed back off which resulted in more low range hearing coming back.“
“I turned to locally grown herbs which are cheaper and I came across morning herb. Using it made a big improvement helping me regain my balance, a good percentage of hearing and no vertigo but slight tinnitus.”
“Duane has noticed that his hearing fluctuates (occasionally) but has improved greatly.““By the way, something I did not expect was the fact that I have regained some of my lost hearing. It has been four years since I was able to listen to a telephone conversation in my left ear. I had a conversation with my wife several weeks ago and at the end of the conversation I told my wife I listened to her with my left ear, she could not believe it. I am scheduled for another hearing test and I am excited about the upcoming results. I was not a candidate in the past for a hearing aid, I hope I don’t even need one now.”“Within one week i had a massive remission of the deafness in my right ear”
All emails used with permission.
So, is preventing deafness and restoring hearing in Meniere’s disease possible?
From the experiences of many Meniere’s Help readers and my own personal experience, I have to say yes.
Help other Meniere’s sufferers. Do you have experience of your hearing returning? Tell us all about it in the comments boxes below or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org