While autoimmune inner ear disease is an uncommon disease with which most doctors are unfamiliar, Dr. Sperling has extensive experience treating this rather rare condition. It occurs when a malfunction in the body’s immune system causes it to attack the structures of the inner ear as it would a virus or bacteria. It is known to cause only one percent of all hearing loss cases.
Autoimmune inner ear disease may present itself similarly to Meniere’s disease. Patients usually will notice bilateral progressive or fluctuating loss of hearing. Tinnitus and aural fullness, a feeling of pressure in the ear, may also occur.
Currently the best method for diagnosing this disease is by clinical evaluations in the office and blood testing.
A steroid called prednisone is most commonly prescribed to suppress the immune system and slow its attack on the inner ear structures. Other steroid medications are now commonly delivered directly to the inner ear via intratympanic injections, as opposed to the more traditional intravenous or oral administration of the drug. By injecting the steroid directly into the ear, the affected region receives a potent dosage of the medicine without common concerns for potential negative side effects of the steroids on the rest of the body.
Intratympanic steroid delivery is a promising new method of treating diseases of the ear. It is a painless procedure that can be done in the doctor’s office under mild anesthesia. Other devices have been developed and are sometimes used to deliver medication to the inner ear.