Ménière’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear, causing problems such as tinnitus, hearing loss, a feeling of pressure in the ear, and vertigo.
According to NHS Inform Ménière’s disease is a rare disorder that affects around one in 1,000 people in the UK. Now, new research has uncovered a drainage system within the ear that may be assumed to play a role in the onset of the disorder.
Using synchrotron x-ray technology, an advanced and powerful form of computer tomography (CT), the researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, have investigated the organs in the human inner ear which are very difficult to study.
The research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Using x-ray technology to investigate the ear
Ménière’s disease is a troublesome disorder, manifested in sudden onset of severe dizziness (vertigo) attacks, hearing impairment and tinnitus, and is thought to be caused by the accumulation of excess fluid in the inner ear.
The organ in the human inner ear which the researchers focussed on is enclosed by the body’s hardest bone.
Using the synchrotron x-ray imaging, the scientists were able to study the organ of balance with its surrounding blood vessels. Since the technology generates energy too high for use on living humans, donors’ temporal bones were used.
The images of the inner ear were reconstructed to make a three-dimensional model in the software of the inside of the hard bone. This led the researchers to discover the drainage system that is thought to explain how the fluid in the inner ear is absorbed.
This discovery may bring about an improved understanding of how and why Ménière’s disease arises.
The synchrotron imaging investigation was carried out in Saskatoon, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The study was conducted jointly with Dr Sumit Agrawal and Dr Hanif Ladak, who are researchers in London, Ontario (Canada).