Auto Immune Inner Ear Disease
More commonly known as AIED, this syndrome is caused by the body’s immune system and antibodies. The immune system sends antibodies to parts of the body it believes to be under attack from a virus or bacteria. In this case, it is healthy skin cells in the ear that are attacked.
The cause is unclear at present, but there is some evidence to suggest a link to Meniere’s disease. Other researchers believe it is an allergic reaction to certain foods, but evidence is not yet clear. Research continues into this recently identified disorder. Once causes are confirmed, better treatments are likely to be developed.
AIED symptoms often appear in one ear before the other. Common symptoms include a reduced ability to hear, sound disturbances like tinnitus, or a hissing noise. Some people also experience dizziness and feel unbalanced.
Diagnosis can be difficult as these symptoms occur with many ear complaints. Once symptoms have progressed to both ears, a blood test can conform the disorder.
The most common treatments for AEID are drugs used to suppress the immune system. These drugs affect the body as a whole and as such need to be prescribed with care. They include steroids, chemotherapy drugs, anti-transplant rejection drugs, and some new anti-tumour and necrosis drugs. Some treatments are injected directly into the ear under local anaesthetic by a skilled physician. Many of these drugs have serious side effects, especially if used over a long period of time.
Hearing aids and more invasive treatments such as cochlea implants have also been used if other treatments fail to make an improvement in the condition. Cochlear implants are fitted to the cochlea under general anaesthetic. They do not recreate normal hearing, they transmit signals to the brain that the user has to learn to interpret.