Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
The symptoms of Meniere’s disease are extreme dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), temporary hearing loss, and a heavy or congested feeling in the ear.
At times the dizziness caused from Meniere’s disease can be so severe that it can also stimulate nausea, vomiting, and cause sudden falls. It usually affects people later in life, after the age of 40, and is generally experienced in only one ear.
Meniere’s disease is caused by a buildup of fluid in the inner ear; the part of the ear responsible for maintaining our sense of balance.
Scientists have no conclusive proof for what triggers the fluid buildup, although one theory suggests it is caused by the same thing that triggers migraine headaches, which is the constriction of blood vessels. However, it is well agreed upon that Meniere’s disease is genetic.
How to Treat Meniere’s Disease
Treatment of Meniere’s disease varies based on the severity. Most often, people with Meniere’s disease will be given prescription drugs to counteract the extreme vertigo it causes.
Doctors also recommend reducing one’s intake of salt, using diuretics to eliminate the body’s extra fluids, and restricting items thought to trigger flare ups of the disease, such as caffeine and cigarettes. In more extreme cases where these treatments are not effective, surgery is considered.
Meniere’s Disease and Social Security Benefits
Because of the severe nature of the vertigo associated with Meniere’s disease, it can be hazardous for those suffering from it to be in a work environment. The SSA lists Meniere’s disease in their Blue Book, meaning it's considered as one of the conditions considered serious enough to qualify a person for Social Security Disability.
Because it appears later in life when you may already be experiencing other impairments, Meniere’s may severely hinder your ability to perform your work tasks. In these situations, you should consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Meniere’s Disease and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
Due to the severity of the vertigo that is the most noticeable symptom of Meniere’s disease, you may be unable to perform any physical labor. Even light work as defined by the SSA’s guidelines for Social Security Disability applicants requires walking; a function that can become nearly impossible for those suffering with vertigo, whose sense of balance is thrown off by the extra fluid in the inner ear.
The risk of falling on the job is no laughing matter, as it may cause other bodily injuries and require your employer to pay out a hefty workman’s compensation claim. Overall, it is much safer if you apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
Other symptoms such as tinnitus and hearing loss can also be a hindrance to performing physical work because of your impaired ability or inability to communicate with those around you.
Meniere’s Disease and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
Even though sedentary work, defined by the SSA as work that requires sitting for up to six hours a day, may eliminate the risk of collapsing due to vertigo, Meniere’s disease can still make a desk job challenging.
Vertigo causes dizziness and confusion; conditions that are not ideal for the need to think and act quickly. Getting in and out of a chair can be dangerous, and communicating on the phone and with others can be difficult due to impaired hearing.
Qualifying With Meniere’s Disease
If you suffer from Meniere’s Disease and your symptoms are so severe you are unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Meniere’s Disease is an inner ear disorder where positional awareness and balance control are located. The condition causes vertigo, which is a sensation that the room is spinning, ringing in the ear, sensations of pressure in the ear canal, and hearing loss that fluctuates and that is permanent.
Episodes are often followed by long periods of wellness before they have another difficult bout caused by the condition. Nausea and vomiting are caused by the vertigo, and a Meniere’s Disease episode can last anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. Sometimes the symptoms are confused with acoustic neuroma because of the similarities.
To qualify medically, you will need to be able to meet the criteria of a listing in the Blue Book, which is the medical guide used by the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are sections for different body systems in the Blue Book, and each section has listings that are disabling. Meniere’s Disease is a “disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function” and is Listing 2.07 of the Blue Book. If you meet the listing requirements, your claim will be approved, and you will be awarded disability benefits.
You must be able to provide supporting evidence that your Meniere’s Disease causes you to suffer:
- Frequent vertigo episodes
- Ringing of the ears – tinnitus
- Gradual ongoing hearing loss which is apparent through speech audiometry and pure tone and
- Caloric or other vestibular tests that show disturbed function of the vestibular labyrinth
You should have hearing tests conducted by an audiologist. An audiologist specializing in both diagnosing and treating hearing loss. Caloric stimulation test is performed by pouring cold and warm water into the ear canal. When the inner ear feels the cold water, your eyes should immediately move away from the cold water before returning to to their original position. When the inner ear comes into contact with warm water, your eyes should immediately move toward the warm water, and then make their way back to their original position.
Other vestibular tests include posturography, the fistula test, and the rotational chair test. Audiometry tests measure the level of hearing loss. A pure tone audiometry test involves the patient wearing headphones and then telling the person performing the test about the varying tones they hear. In a speech audiometry exam, the patient listens to words that are emitted through a set of headphones and indicates to the person conducting the test when he or she both understands and hears the word.
To be approved for disability benefits, Meniere’s Disease must be expected to last 12 consecutive months. Because of the nature of the disease, its symptoms may appear suddenly and then move into remission. You will need to provide detailed medical records with multiple audiologist visits that start when your symptoms first started. You need to give the SSA a clear picture explaining the intensity and severity of your illness along with the frequency of episodes.
Using A Medical Vocational Allowance
If you are unable to work because of Meniere’s Disease and your listing doesn’t meet the criteria of the listing, you can pursue a claim using a medical vocational allowance. The SSA will complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) for you based on your ability to perform work-related activities despite the severity of your symptoms. To create the RFC, the SSA will review all your medical evidence. You may be asked to see an audiologist or a physician that is hired by the SSA for a consultative exam.
Because there isn’t a warning as to when symptoms will appear, your physician may make a note in your chart that indicates you cannot work on a job requiring you to be near dangerous equipment or machinery, and that would be indicated on your RFC. You may not be allowed to drive, and that would also be noted. You may not be able to work around loud machinery. The details will be filled out to determine if you are capable of working.
If you have your physician complete a detailed RFC it could be beneficial to your claim. The medical vocational allowance will take your medical conditions, age, work history, transferrable skills, and educational background into consideration. As an example, if you are older than 50 and have limited transferrable skills and only a high school diploma, and you suffer from Meniere’s Disease and you have only worked in a factory using saws, your odds of having a claim approved increase significantly. They look at the whole picture and your capabilities and if you are able to train for a job that is available in your area in the current economy.
How To Apply For Disability Benefits With Meniere’s Disease
If you are disabled to work because of Meniere’s Disease, you will want to get you disability claim underway. You can start the claims process online at ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213 and talk with a representative over the phone or by scheduling an appointment at your local SSA field office. There are more than 1,300 field offices spread out across the country. You need to make sure the forms are filled out properly and that you provide all the necessary supporting documentation.
Consult With A Disability Lawyer
If you are disabled because of Meniere’s Disease, you should consult with a disability lawyer. The odds of having your claim approved increase greatly when you have a lawyer representing you.
When you retain a disability lawyer, you will not pay anything out of pocket. Instead, your attorney will not be paid until you are awarded benefits. The SSA guidelines indicate that an attorney for a disability claim receives 25 percent of your back pay but the maximum amount they can receive is $6,000. To get your claim underway, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page.